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Kristi Nelson
Kristi Nelson
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Reengineering Communications

HealthNow New York creates customer-focused benefit information using Exstream Software's Dialogue solution.

Last year, HealthNow New York ($1.77 billion in annual revenue) set out to reengineer its benefits guides by combining behavioral science methodology with variable data printing. Though the move had the potential to reduce administrative costs, cut down on call center calls and increase customer satisfaction, pulling it off would prove to be no easy feat.

The road to reengineering began five years ago, when Buffalo, N.Y.-based HealthNow partnered with Xerox (Rochester, N.Y.) to assess the processes, systems and technology underlying its customer documents. From that effort came a recommendation to standardize on a single document composition tool. At the time, HealthNow was using several complex tools that required IT programming to use them effectively.

Lexington, Ky.-based Exstream Software's Dialogue product emerged as a clear alternative, since it provided high-level personalization and also would help shift the publication production burden away from IT. With a more user-friendly tool in place, HealthNow created a publishing hub and trained a document automation group to carry out production using the software and Xerox high-speed digital printing equipment.

Going to the Next Level

Since then, HealthNow has been using Dialogue to pre-fill forms and create personalized customer letters. Its next step was to develop member guides for its three brands and product lines. Previously, only the company's HMO members received an actual benefits booklet - other customers got brochures with their contracts. The HMO guide was a 70-page booklet, but it lacked customer-specific data. "We really wanted to personalize the documents to the nth degree," says Louise Lavere, director of communication services for HealthNow. "In our previous Blue Pages book there were maybe 10 to 15 pieces of variable data. Everything else was exactly the same."

HealthNow again relied on Xerox consultants, who brought in experts in document creation and behavioral science to help the insurer organize and present information in a way that would increase customer understanding. "We wanted to apply a little bit of thought and planning into not just meeting the letter of the law, but actually explaining how to get the most out of your benefits," Lavere explains.

The new guides were developed in almost three months. According to Lavere, it was a painful process, as it became apparent that there were differing opinions as to how each benefit worked.

Developing content was the hard part. The technology piece, however, proved to be fairly straightforward, notes Lavere. "Dialogue's ability to build one application and re-use content has made it very easy to produce a truly personalized document," she says. "We work with the same page layout each time and just pull in the variable information from the data field."

The rollout strategy involved building guides by plan type across three brands: BlueCross/Blue Shield of Western New York, Blue Shield of Northeastern New York and HealthNow. "They're essentially structured the same way, so by doing one we could really do all three of our markets at the same time," Lavere notes.

The new 20-page guides for Point of Service customers began shipping last fall. By Jan. 1, 2004, HMO members began to get their books. This summer, rollout to Preferred Provider members began. Those lines of business represent about 80 percent of HealthNow's more than 750,000 members.

Feedback from survey postcards and comments from administrators have been overwhelmingly positive. However, although postage and printing costs have been reduced, Lavere says other savings are move elusive: "When you talk about ROI on a document like this, it's a really hard thing to establish."

HealthNow is working with Xerox to measure call center impact and improvements in benefits usage and customer satisfaction. "In theory, we should see improved utilization numbers," Lavere says. "If you understand your benefits, you won't be using unnecessary and costly services."

Case Study Closeup

Company Name: HealthNow New York (Buffalo, N.Y.; annual revenue of $1.77 billion).

Lines Of Business: Healthcare plans.

Vendor/Technology: Exstream Software's (Lexington, Ky.) Dialogue; Xerox (Rochester, N.Y.) consulting.

The Challenge: Provide highly personalized member benefit guides.

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