Our Improvements to MarylandHealthConnection.gov
Easy to use, understandable and helpful. These goals for MarylandHealthConnection.gov have spurred a major redesign that is going live soon to make shopping for health coverage easier for Marylanders before Open Enrollment starts November 1.
Even with increased volume and twice as many total enrollments processed as a year earlier, we knew we had ongoing user challenges with MarylandHealthConnection.gov through conversations with consumers, consumer-assistance workers, and social media engagement. With more technical enrollment challenges behind us, we are focusing on refining consumer “self-service” to boost consumer satisfaction and reduce the need for outside assistance.
What research did we do?
The team at Maryland Health Connection knew that changes could be made to improve the website. Before brainstorming, we needed to do a bit of research. We wanted to know what screens people spent the most time on, what the most challenging parts of the application process were, what point users would seek phone help, and where they got frustrated.
The blizzard that swept through Maryland last January caused an extension of the enrollment deadline, so we grabbed a few procrastinators who wanted to sign up. They agreed to let us remotely watch their computer screens as they applied, and gained insight as to what they perceived as difficult about the sign-up.
What did we find?
A man walks up to a diner entrance that has double doors. One door has a sign that reads, “Please use other door.” The other door has a sign that says, “This is the other door.” If there had not been a sign on the second door, the man may have wasted time looking for another entrance.
This analogy opened our eyes to our website functionality and navigation plan. Plain and simple: all information on the site should be crystal clear, with as few “doors” to information as possible. The frustration with the enrollment process stemmed from small errors and unclear information. Several people missed out on financial help because they misunderstood application questions. Other people became frustrated after spending long periods of time in the website’s plan-browsing section, which only provides an estimate of costs, before moving into the portion of the site where they could actually buy a plan.
“By watching actual consumers apply, researchers were able to uncover reasons why consumers resorted to guessing, why they would quit at certain points, and why and where they encountered the most difficulty in applying online.” State Health Reform Assistance Network Issue Brief June 2016
People looking to renew or change plans were not sure how to begin, and a lot of the insurance terminology was confusing to our research participants.
How did we improve the Maryland Health Connection website?
Functionality was upgraded — password reset and account creation is now reset and has clear instructions. Answers to seemingly complex questions, such as who to include as members of a household or what income to enter to see eligibility for financial help, will be easy to find and explained in simple terms. We also made instructions clearer about how to verify information in your application, such as income, and how to upload documents.
On MarylandHealthConnection.gov we also will present a new design with fewer, clearer entry points, and easier-to-understand information on health coverage, costs and benefits.
Open Enrollment for private health plans and dental plans starts this fall, and Medicaid enrollment continues year-round. We hope you find applying for coverage this year to be easier, simpler and understandable!