Client Story


Providing millions of New Yorkers with health insurance enrollment information during a global health emergency

As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes markets, businesses everywhere are leveraging digital channels to make interactions with customers safer. In the US health insurance sector, Healthfirst is leading the way. To drive growth, we’ve supported them on their digital transformation. We developed a new online ‘front door’ for the insurer to replace the face-to-face events it usually runs to enroll new members. The new site provides information about affordable plan options and connects prospective members to online appointment scheduling and remote enrollment options. This new digital channel means Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) eligible individuals, including those made unemployed because of the pandemic, can continue to secure vital health coverage through difficult times.

Key successes

  • Laid the foundations for a sophisticated online platform that will position Healthfirst as the digital leader in its market
  • Deployed a mix of leading design, development and digital expertise to accelerate delivery against a hard deadline
  • Allowed thousands of Medicare-eligible New Yorkers to continue to secure health coverage despite pandemic disruption
  • Digitized the front door of the business in just six weeks

Accelerating a new digital channel to healthcare

Approximately 1.5 million people depend on Healthfirst for affordable health insurance, including plans for individuals with low incomes, Medicare-eligible individuals, and employer sponsored plans. Healthfirst is the largest not-for-profit health insurer in New York State.

To enroll new members, Healthfirst traditionally engages with prospects in person at community events and field offices. Here, representatives can walk prospective members through their options and help them complete the enrollment process. But the pandemic meant face-to-face engagement was no longer possible – and it was unclear when it would resume.

Meanwhile, with the pandemic driving unemployment and people losing health coverage through their jobs, access to affordable health coverage was more vital than ever. Healthfirst needed a new way for potential members to discover their plan options and enroll in the right plan. In a rapid six-week engagement, we designed and built a brand-new digital portal that does just this.

Meeting an immovable deadline

From the start, time was of the essence. By law, enrollments in many health plans are concentrated in an annual, three-month window. This meant the new site had to be up and running without fail when the enrollment window opened. With just six weeks available, we began by ideating a solution that would deliver a great experience for users, taking them to the information they needed as quickly and easily as possible. The solution also needed to be one that the team were confident could be launched in time. This was about understanding the art of the possible.

Once the concept was approved, we needed to work fast. Our leading insights into how digital is changing the way health businesses engage with customers helped us hit the ground running. And we drew on our extensive set of capabilities, bringing in user experience (UX) specialists, web designers and digital transformation experts. Taking an iterative agile approach enabled the joint team to work across global time zones, given pandemic restrictions which necessitated remote ways of working.

In addition to the technical challenge, we also had to manage a complex stakeholder environment. We co-ordinated with Healthfirst internal stakeholders, including marketing, analytics, technology and legal teams, as well as external parties, such as website vendors and content providers. Many of these stakeholders were working against a backdrop of pandemic-related disruption. It took precise facilitation to keep the team aligned.

We launched the new site successfully in time for the annual enrollment window. In the first month, the site served 42,000 unique visitors and the pace of growth is increasing.

Getting the new shopping and enrollment site launched on time required an integrated plan with a wide range of stakeholders to come together. PA did an outstanding job keeping everyone aligned, allowing us to meet a challenging deadline that was absolutely crucial to our business.”
Vice President, Acquisition Marketing

Driving growth through digital transformation

The new enrollment site, which integrates seamlessly with Healthfirst’s home web page, offers informative written and video content on health insurance products and invites prospects to attend live, online information sessions. It features a plan recommendation tool, based on responses to questions about requirements and entitlements, and the opportunity to get a quote. It also gives prospective members the ability to connect with new tools to make an appointment to enroll by phone, video or in person at one of Healthfirst’s network of community offices. The in-house developed appointment system for in-person enrollment means Healthfirst can maintain safe distancing in its offices.

As well as enabling Healthfirst to continue to seamlessly engage with its prospective members, analytics that we built into the site are now delivering new insights into prospects’ behavior, preferences and needs. Insights on how different groups engage with the content will help Healthfirst understand prospects’ needs even better, enhance the experience and develop new products to meet them. Healthfirst also has the building blocks in place to develop a site that offers full online enrollment and, with this, one of the most sophisticated member engagement platforms in the market. This new channel will enable the insurer to reach and sign up many more prospects digitally, helping drive future growth.

The new digital solution is having a positive human impact. More than ever during the pandemic, people need access to affordable health insurance. Healthfirst’s new site means they can take action to get information about plans and book an appointment to enroll safely and quickly. With this comes huge peace of mind.

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