A 2021 survey of more than 3,500 seniors by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that most were dissatisfied with their onboarding experience. But health plans can use the gaps in their onboarding experience to differentiate themselves among ever increasing competition in the market.

The survey, conducted by McKinsey in June 2021, asked 3,501 seniors, including 636 Medicare Advantage (MA) members and individuals who were either Medicare eligible or who will become eligible within the next two years, what they wanted from their onboarding experience. A good experience can lead to member retention and higher Star ratings. But a bad one can spur members to shop for and switch health plans.

The survey findings reveal that less than half of the respondents were fully satisfied with their access to resources, digital offerings to improve health, the process of selecting a primary care physician, and the process of enrolling in additional benefits, all factors that they rated as important in their plan selection process.

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“Onboarding new members is necessary for the success of health plans,” wrote McKinsey’s Marina Ivanenko, Dan Jamieson, and Cara Repasky in the survey article. “Developing this capability may seem daunting to payers, but effective early engagement could improve member experience and loyalty and promote a seamless path to care. Incorporating member feedback into onboarding design could deepen members’ commitment to their health as well as their confidence in their health plans.”

They suggest taking three steps to improve the onboarding experience:

Provide additional outreach: Forty-nine percent of seniors said they were interested in receiving notifications about new benefits and programs offered by the health plan. And 43 percent wanted to know how to sign up for reward programs.

Adopt multichannel communication strategies: McKinsey authors suggest health plans be strategic about sending targeted messages through the right channel at the right time.

Schedule annual wellness visits: Set up the annual exams early in the onboarding process and consider offering an in-home option to complete the assessment.