Health Insurance Exchanges Struggle To Charm Customers - InformationWeek

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09:30 AM

Health Insurance Exchanges Struggle To Charm Customers

Up to 80% of consumers abandon their transactions on the checkout page, even on well-designed retail sites. How can healthcare exchanges learn from their mistakes?

McCaig says that if people are intent on buying something they "will just wrestle with it. If it takes three hours to do it, they'll just keep at it." Demand is high because there are so many uninsured people in the United States, he said, "but the experience doesn't leave a nice taste in people's mouths … Some very simple best practices (and knowing how consumers) use the sites, will optimize the experience."

Another company that evaluates user behavior on websites,, using different benchmarks, found has made significant improvements in its design. The company engaged ConversionMax to evaluate in early November.

As ConversionMax chief marketing officer Theresa Baiocco saw the site, it appeared that's designers didn't fully consider all the different types of users coming to the site, and what they were trying to accomplish.

"It's an attractive site, laid out nicely; they did a lot of things right," she said. But developing models for the user experience involves understanding the different types of people who will use the site and "defining ... what they're trying to accomplish. You might have five user types; [it] seems like that's missing."

E-commerce sites commit the common mistake, she says, of designing a website with a mindset of "we want people to apply immediately, and that's what we're aiming for." was "not intuitive at all; visitors [had] to stop and think way too much." was so struck by ConversionMax's findings, it re-evaluated two more times -- at the end of November and on Dec. 9 -- and noted these improvements:

  • In making it easy for visitors to find eligible plans,'s score improved 26%, to 4.5 on a 5-point scale;
  • In making the application process easy, the site's score improved 31%, from 2.9 to 3.8;
  • In making it easy to find needed information on the website, improved 30%, to 3.8.

Patience Wait is a Washington-based reporter who covers government IT for InformationWeek. 

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User Rank: Author
12/17/2013 | 7:02:31 PM
Customer satisfaction
One benchmark for comparing customer satisfaction is the quarterly surveys by Foresee for the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index,

It reports: In the functional categories, government e-commerce and transactional sites (with the latest quarter's score at 79) still lags the private sector, but only slightly (81.1), but the government outperforms the private sector in e-business (portals, search engines, and news and information sites), which slid to 71.3 in a July report.

David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/17/2013 | 11:48:58 AM
Alternatives are good
For those who couldn't get health insurance at all before (or only a plan excluding coverage for their preexisting conditions), the exchanges and the legal framework around them are a godsend. This may not be the right answer for everyone, but for those who really need coverage the technical and usability issues are a mere annoyance, not a fatal flaw.

Still, there's no reason the exchanges can't provide a more positive experience. The launch of reminds me of this Terry Gilliam satire about the welfare state
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2013 | 2:11:35 PM
More important than the website is the product. The best website in the world is going to have trouble selling a bad product that is over-priced with restricted provider networks and high deductibles!
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