In week 3 of our class we studied the concept of crowdsourcing which is defined by Jeff Howe as “represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (IMC 619 Lesson 3). Most of the information I have read about crowdsourcing applies to companies that produce tangible products. Crowdsourcing is particularly useful for gathering new design concepts for a particular product.
I work in the health insurance industry and although we say we market products we actually market a service. We sell the invisible. What we provide in the form of reimbursement is basically invisible. No one receives a box of insurance. We provide the security and peace of mind knowing that the costs of the medical services you receive will be covered by your health plan.
The health plan is the product (but really a service). Most health insurance companies conduct traditional research through both quantitative and qualitative methods (focus groups, online surveys, etc.). Alsever describes additional benefits of crowdsourcing including research as “Crowdsourcing can improve productivity and creativity while minimizing labor and research expenses. Using the Internet to solicit feedback from an active and passionate community of customers can reduce the amount of time spent collecting data through formal focus groups or trend research, while also seeding enthusiasm for upcoming products. By involving a cadre of customers in key marketing, branding, and product-development processes, managers can reduce both staffing costs and the risks associated with uncertain marketplace demand” (Allsever).
It has me wondering could crowdsourcing be used to create a health plan and if so how would it work? Here are a few of my initial ideas:
- First of all, don’t ask people to create a whole health plan because there are just too many benefits for people to try to figure out. Instead focus on the most popular benefits such as office visits, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage and preventive care.
- Health insurance in most states is very heavily regulated, so give the crowd some parameters to follow so they don’t submit ideas that won’t comply with regulatory guidelines. If a particular state has a minimum/maximum amount of visits limits or copay amount limits, let the crowd know in advance so they are not wasting their time with ideas that simply won’t pass regulatory approval.
- Ask the crowd to focus on what the level of coverage should be, the access to care (in terms of physician/hospital network size) and what value added benefits would they want (gym memberships, yoga classes, massage services etc.).
- Give the crowd some examples to work off such as you break your leg and need to go to the emergency room –explain the ideal scenario of what happens. Or you find out you need to have a tumor removed how does your health insurance come into play for this situation.
I’m not sure if what I outlined above would work with crowdsourcing however with health care being such a hot topic these days I think anything is worth a shot to improve what is such an important product (or service depending on which you look at it).
Alsever, Jennifer. What is crowdsourcing? Retrieved November 8, 2008 from http://www.bnet.com/2403-13241_23-52961.html
IMC 619 Week 3 Lesson. 2008 West Virginia University.
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