Internet Users Want to Manage Insurance Benefits Online

More than three-quarters of Internet users covered by health insurance say they are interested in managing their benefits through an insurance carrier’s Web site, according to research by Cyber Dialogue.

The findings make online benefits management among the most desired activities for online health users, ahead of applications such as online drug stores and personal medical records.

According to Cyber Dialogue, the impact on health insurance carriers’ revenues could be substantial. In fact, 90 percent of Internet users have health insurance, and among the 10.3 million Internet users who anticipate changing insurance carriers over the next 12 months, 37 percent report that they would be very or somewhat likely to switch carriers in order to manage their benefits online.

“This high level of interest reflects deep levels of consumer frustration with healthcare red tape and bureaucracy,” said Scott Reents, Manager of Health Care Strategies at Cyber Dialogue. “It also presents an enormous opportunity. Online benefits management is a strong candidate to become the killer app for Internet health.”

In particular, online users are interested in having the ability to check the extent of their coverage for various procedures and physician office visits, with 67 percent of online users with insurance saying that they were very or somewhat interested in this feature. Other features showing high user interest include checking status of filed claims, finding in-network doctors and hospitals, and looking up information on alternative or supplemental health plans.

Interest in Online
Benefits Management
Check coverage 67%
Check claim status 56%
Find doctor/hospital 47%
Look up info.
on other plans
File claims 40%
Enroll 26%
Source: Cyber Dialogue

At this time, one major barrier to online benefits management appears to be the insurance industry. Despite the high levels of consumer interest, only 8 percent of insured Internet users are actually using their insurer’s Web site, and 68 percent aren’t even aware that their insurer has a Web site.

“Consumers want this convenience, but insurers either aren’t offering the functionality consumers desire, or they aren’t effectively marketing it,” Reents said. “This looks like a case where insurers will be forced to choose either to invest in the Internet or to lose business to competitors who do.”

Cyber Dialogue’s findings are the result of its Cybercitizen Health survey, based on in-depth interviews with more than 2,700 US adults. The study was fielded in July 1999 and is accurate within +/- 1.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.

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