Every year it’s the same frenzy. As the deadline for open enrollment approaches, there is a steady build-up of pressure to meet the annual window in which people must renew their health insurance or enter the marketplace.
For many health organizations, this presents a two-sided problem. On the one hand, they need to get information out to customers so they can make well-informed choices ahead of the deadline. On the other, the extra workload involved can place additional stress on teams with existing commitments and deadlines. “What tends to happen,” says Maggie Patterson, VP of Healthcare at Aquent, “is that there becomes a serious overflow of work that they can’t take on internally.”
What’s more, companies need to cover the extra workload across a variety of positions that extend beyond normal requirements for communications. “It’s across the board,” says Jennifer Zako, a Healthcare Account Director at Aquent. “It’s marketing, product management, proofreaders, designers, copywriters, production artists.” There is also a need for data analysts who can help predict trends and make sense of both the renewal and application process itself.
Given the seasonal nature of the open enrollment process, the obvious solution is to outsource the additional work to an agency, or take on independent workers. But agency work is expensive, and hiring freelancers for open enrollment comes with a series of needs unique to both the project and the health sector in general.
Hit the ground running
The intense workload of the open enrollment season means that there is no time for novices. Although training is common for contract workers and freelancers, companies can minimize the time-consuming learning curve by hiring experienced, highly-skilled talent.
Getting ahead of the demand can increase chances of success. “With one client, we knew ahead of time that quite a few needs were popping up,” says Sunil Patel, Director of Enterprise Accounts for Aquent’s Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals practice. “We were able to have in-depth, intimate conversations with the leaders of in-house agencies to ramp up for all the scalable work and make sure there were people there to execute for open enrollment.” That kind of pipeline can not only ensure a smooth ramp-up period, but also help with consistency year after year given the seasonality of the work.
Bringing on experienced independent workers, rather than hiring and training internally, also means getting self-starters who can quickly get up to speed. Having workers who already have a fluent health-sector vocabulary and knowledge of the enrollment process speeds up team integration, and it makes ramping more seamless.
Getting the message out
Good UX and UI design is crucial to demystifying insurance enrollment, which is often seen as a deeply complicated and confusing task. Experienced writing and design talent are especially handy when addressing the compliance component of healthcare communications.
Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of disability, extends to the presentation of any health insurance materials related to the Affordable Care Act. Descriptive text, audio options, and other measures to communicate to people with a variety of disabilities are required by law. As such, having designers who can deliver the necessary compliance become vital.
Communicating the required information in a concise but dynamic way is a lot tougher than it may seem. The Web Accessibility Initiative, a body that is generally regarded as the international standard, suggests that “if you are new to accessibility, it takes some time and effort to learn the common issues and solutions.”
There’s also a need for variety in presentation. Some customers may respond to print material best, while others may prefer online sites; either way, you’ll need the help of top-notch creative workers. A multimedia approach — videos, infographics, interactive websites, etc. — can be especially effective in simplifying the myriad options, but it too requires specialized talent to pull off well.
A data-driven approach
In any broad deployment like health insurance, the sheer amount of information and activity generates a large amount of data. As a consequence, open enrollments are deeply connected to the burgeoning world of data analytics and artificial intelligence. For instance, looking at open enrollments over a number of years can reveal patterns that can help anticipate staffing needs, optimize insurance plans, refine the signup process, and automate parts of the enrollment exercise. As such, skilled data analysts can help smooth out open enrollments from start to finish.
The open enrollment presents a series of challenges for health insurers and their partners, including its seasonal nature, the intensity of the ramp-up involved, and the wide array of staffing needs it brings with it. By integrating the right talent in the right places, insurance companies can ensure that they make enrolling in a healthcare plan as easy - and truly open - as it can be.