Rolling out the welcome mat for new members

Getting started with a new health plan can be a daunting experience. Understanding benefits, finding a doctor, transferring prescriptions, and accessing care have the potential to be confusing and frustrating — or welcoming and engaging. Our new member onboarding approach is aiming for the latter.

“We began evaluating our onboarding process about a year ago by mapping our new members’ journey during their first 100 days with our organization,” says Julija Gelazis, director, Enterprise Customer Experience. “What information did they need right away? Where were the pain points and barriers to getting what they needed, and where were the opportunities for improving service, engagement, satisfaction, and retention?”

The outcome of that evaluation was a series of onboarding improvements that we’ve been rolling out to new members since November 2016. They include:

1 – Streamlined new member materials

By evaluating the clarity, relevance, and timing of materials that we send to new members from various areas within our organization, we were able to eliminate some of them entirely, rewrite others to make them more engaging, and ensure that new members receive the right information at the right time — not before they need it or after.

All new members, as well as members who have just switched to a different plan, now receive a new member welcome toolkit — replacing the welcome card — sometime between five days before and five days after their effective date. It offers step-by-step instructions on how to register for online services, choose a doctor, transfer prescriptions, and more. The toolkit also includes information on how to order a printed copy of the benefits booklet if they’d like one.

For prospective individual and family (I&F) members, clear communication starts even before a member’s coverage becomes effective. When we receive an application from a prospective member, we promptly send them an email, explaining what they can expect next and how they can check their application status.

Once a new I&F member has been approved for coverage, they receive a letter welcoming them to Kaiser Permanente Washington that includes their plan name and effective date, the names of the members who are covered on their plan, and their member ID number.

2 – Welcome calls to new membersKaiser Permanente Washington New Member Welcome Team

Our welcome service includes a call to each new member after their effective date. The recorded, interactive message encourages new members to register for online services, choose a personal physician, and transfer their prescriptions. At each stage of the call, members can choose to be transferred to our New Member Welcome Team to get personal, individualized assistance.

3 – A New Member Welcome Team answers questions on the spot

This team is staffed with highly trained Member Services and pharmacy team members who have the knowledge, skill, and connections to answer health plan questions and address any and all member needs. If issues can’t be resolved immediately, the team follows up with the member once they have answers.

“The welcome team is especially important for members who have chronic conditions and need ongoing treatment, or those on medications that require prior approval or step therapy,” says Karen Lewis-Smith, executive director, Government Programs, who spearheaded the transition of care improvement work. Step therapy involves the patient trying a less costly — but just as effective — drug before we’ll cover another medication.

“The welcome call and the New Member Welcome Team work in tandem to identify new members who need extra help and readily provide that assistance,” says Abby DeLand, New Member Welcome Team representative. “The team loves having the tools to go above and beyond in making new members’ transitions easier, and we get a lot of appreciative comments from members.”

4 – A smoother initial online experience

We know that many of our members prefer to do as much as they can online, so we focused on making it as easy as possible to accomplish tasks like choosing a doctor and transferring medications without help.

Our new member page is optimized to make it more member-friendly and easier to navigate. It includes a note about the welcome call they’ll be receiving, and mentions the caller ID number that’s generated by the call. This helps members know that they’ll be getting a legitimate call from Kaiser Permanente.

5 – Broader awareness of new member services

Our new Transition of Care card, which lists the direct line to our New Member Welcome Team, is available for groups to distribute to employees who need assistance. It can also be handed out at open enrollment fairs.

6 – A warm welcome the first time new members visit a clinicNew member welcome bag

Patients now receive an orange “welcome bag” when they visit Primary Care, Pediatrics, or General Internal Medicine at a Kaiser Permanente Washington medical office for the first time. Each bag contains a variety of materials to welcome new members. Informational cards help them understand how to access care, and feature recipes to help engage members in the content and give them incentive to keep the materials handy.

“Over and above the bag’s contents, its bright color alerts clinic staff that the member may need extra care and guidance during their visit, and reminds them to roll out the royal welcome mat,” says Jeffrey Grice, MD, medical director, Service Quality and Brand.

What’s planned for the future?

“In the coming months we’ll continue to review data from our members’ first 100 days to identify additional opportunities for optimizing the onboarding process,” says Gelazis. “Helping members make a smooth and speedy transition to their new health plan improves engagement and health outcomes, boosts loyalty and retention, and reduces costs.”

New Member Welcome Team wins praise from new members

While our improved welcome program is still fairly new, we’ve already received positive feedback from a number of grateful new members. In fact, the first quote is from a fellow producer who is also a new member.

“I really love this service and feel like it is an added selling point for prospective members.”

“I am 14 weeks pregnant … and called with a ton of maternity questions. Liza was so patient, helpful and thorough, and gave me the best service.”

“I was apprehensive to call, but … I reached Mariah and she walked me through the welcome program. She was … professional, knowledgeable, and patient. This is a wonderful service you are offering and I just cannot say enough about my experience!”


(800) 542-6312 
601 Union St., Ste. 3100 Seattle, WA 98101-1374 

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All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.