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Consumer-Centric Transformation at Anthem: Digital and Then Some


The digital journey requires more than the latest technology to deliver great experiences; equally important are timely and targeted consumer research, tight business and IT alignment, and a passion for delivering a great consumer experience.

It’s only been recently that individual consumers have become the focus of the U.S. health insurance industry. It’s not surprising, then, that our industry historically ranks fairly low on consumer experience ratings. Health insurers across the board have poor net promoter scores (NPS), generally worse than most other industries. In recent years, with the focus on improving member interactions, the industry has recognized it must deliver better consumer experiences. 

Individual consumers control increasing amounts of healthcare dollars and have many choices about how to spend that money. Moreover, large employers that purchase health insurance for their employees have elevated their expectations. The ability to deliver great experiences will determine success as our industry continues to evolve. 

At Anthem, consumer centricity is a key pillar of our business strategy and a focal point of our digital journey. Our focus on consumers, supported by our digital transformation efforts, is enabling us to deliver access to high-quality, affordable healthcare. From end to end and on every channel, we anchor our digital strategies to deliver exceptional consumer experiences. This ensures the work we’re doing within digital aligns with member needs and our business strategy. 

We’ve learned many valuable lessons during the last two years of our “extreme makeover.” One overarching lesson: It takes a lot more than technology to deliver a rich, engaging, elegant experience. Consumer research, business and IT alignment, Agile development processes, scalable foundational platforms and a passionate team — all of these are required elements for providing exceptional, frictionless experiences. 

We’re aggressively tackling this challenge — and recognize that delivering exceptional experiences across all stops on the consumer journey is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Start With the Consumer

Consumer expectations are rapidly increasing when it comes to their experiences with service providers, including health insurers. That’s because best-in-class consumer companies have raised the bar by delivering simple, engaging and personalized experiences.

It’s critical to understand the different types of experiences consumers need, depending on the context. To ground our teams on consumer needs, we conducted a series of consumer studies — NPS driver analysis, cross-channel voice-of-the-consumer synthesis, and deep research on our touchpoints — to determine their importance and better understand how we performed in these areas. We analyzed our end-to-end journeys and identified the critical moments that disproportionately add value to the experience.

Consumers told us their basic needs: 

  • Confidence that they are covered and will be taken care of in the event of a health issue.

  • Clarity of coverage, free of industry jargon, to avoid negative surprises when they need to use their benefits.

  • Convenience when interacting with their health plans through their channel of choice, as well as personalized, effortless service whenever they have a question or an issue arises.

Grounded with this understanding, we assessed our ability to deliver this type of experience, supported by our digital capabilities. Through an exhaustive evaluation of our existing digital capabilities, we learned we needed to overhaul our foundational technology platforms to enable the flexibility and performance required to deliver on the “personalized and effortless” interactions our consumers demand.

We started with consumer expectations, then worked backwards to reimagine our digital experiences. And rather than just comparing Anthem with other health plans to develop a strategy, we also looked outside the industry at best-in-class consumer companies to study examples of exceptional digital design. Our digital product and user experience design teams quickly realized the bar is fairly low if they only look at healthcare solutions.  

We immersed ourselves in the experiences offered by brands like Netflix, Amazon, Zillow, TripAdvisor, Starbucks and Uber, which all offer clean layouts with ample white space, a defined visual hierarchy, intuitive navigation and interfaces with clear calls to action. They often feature guided experiences and warm personalized messaging that reflects the brand personality. Learning from these exceptional examples, we focused our efforts on simplicity and ease as the new norm for all of our experiences.

Figure 1

Digital Transformation: More than Meets the Eye

Using our understanding of consumer needs and exemplars from leading consumer-focused companies, we identified the modern, flexible and scalable digital technology platforms required to deliver on our ambition. Focusing on consumer needs helped business and IT teams operate as one — aligned on vision, goals and objectives.

To support our efforts, we transitioned our digital organizations from a traditional waterfall development approach to a modern Agile software development approach. That was a very heavy lift. Anthem is an extremely virtual company, so not only were we making the transition to Agile practices but we also had to figure out the tools to enable collaboration among virtualized work groups, teams and the larger organization. The digital business and the IT organization led the way into Agile as part of the digital transformation process, and now the entire company has rallied around Agile to transform the enterprise.

It has become very obvious that digital is much more than a new technology, or a new app. It requires an enterprise-wide approach to support the organization and truly enable the business strategy. We’re changing our culture, processes and technology — essentially how we work. We’re not only changing what we deliver to our consumers but how we deliver it. 

In short, digital transformation is a massive undertaking, with many critical activities in progress on parallel tracks that need to be carefully orchestrated to deliver on consumer expectations and our ambition to be a leading consumer-focused organization. 

Delivering Results

In 2015, we focused on the foundational elements: planning, prioritization, team building and implementation of the enterprise technology stack, which included a portal platform, digital analytics and an enterprise content management system. None of this is particularly glamorous work, but it is all crucial — and hard. 

In 2016, we leveraged the foundational technology to deliver new, modern experiences to consumers, following our user-centered design principles aligned with Anthem’s brand promise. We did a lot of testing directly with consumers, such as usability, navigation testing and feedback. We completely overhauled our public site, which serves as our front door for consumers, brokers, employers and providers. Our second launch included a fully redesigned secure member portal for 1.2 million members. And lastly, we delivered an integrated cost and quality transparency solution to one million members.

Response from our internal stakeholders and consumers has been rewarding. In the first five months following the release of our redesigned website, our public consumer portal recorded 11.3 million unique visitors, generating 65.1 million page views. Of those, 85% of the traffic came from desktop users, and 15% came from mobile devices. 

During that same timeframe, we also deployed the first release of a secure member portal for an initial population of 1.2 million members. In the first five months of production, we recorded 870,000 unique visitors, generating 14.3 million page views. Of those, 88% of the traffic came from desktop users, and the remaining 12% from mobile phones and tablets.

Surpassing Expectations 

The results from our digital transformation teams were even better than expected. In addition to the portals and cost transparency solutions, we rolled out a visual design update to the mobile app. Within all these complex releases, we logged an extremely manageable set of defects, all rapidly addressed by our new operating model. This was made possible by new ways of delivering quality solutions and new strategies. 

One small example is our customer care model. To provide white-glove service following major releases, we formed a “hypercare” team that would be on high alert for troubleshooting after each release to direct any issues to the right team for resolution. In one case, we wound up disbanding the team in two weeks — there just wasn’t a need for it.

The results are in, and we’re pleased with our progress. During any major redesign, those affected the most are existing (returning) users. They tend to temporarily depress satisfaction scores as they get used to the new site and the new user experience. This is referred to as the “relaunch effect.” 

What is encouraging is the comparison of scores from our first-time visitors with those of returning visitors who said they come monthly.

Members who are experiencing the website for the first time are giving us much higher scores. This will continue to raise overall scores as the “relaunch effect” abates, and the scores of both are blended together in future months.

Our work continues, and our teams continue to get even better. They are self-directed, and because they work on products, not projects, they can focus on the needs of the consumer as their overall goal and create end-to-end solutions instead of features or enhancements. Most of these teams remain intact and continually get smarter about how they work together.

Continuous Transformation

I’m very proud of the work our Anthem digital teams have accomplished to date and look forward to all that’s yet to come. We’ll continue rolling out new capabilities to our members across all lines of business. In addition, we’ll begin working on designing experiences for other stakeholders, including brokers, employers and healthcare providers.

Given how rapidly digital technologies are advancing and the innovation we’re seeing in the healthcare sector, it’s difficult to pinpoint a time when our transformation will be complete. Instead, delivering great consumer experiences is our passion and our mission. It’s the result of deliberate decisions orchestrated through a focused approach that includes listening to our consumers and developing the right culture, leadership, processes and technology to meet consumer needs. We’re excited about taking this journey and helping Anthem’s 40 million health plan members manage their health and healthcare with the best experiences possible.


As Vice-President of Digital Solutions at Anthem, Meg Rush leads a diverse team of digital professionals whose passion and mission focuses on developing seamless digital experiences that support consumers with their health and healthcare decisions. She spearheads the company’s digital strategy, leveraging consumer research and insights to drive growth and develop new capabilities for Anthem’s online channels. Meg received her bachelor of arts degree from St. John Fisher College in New York, and her master’s of management degree from Penn State University. She can be reached at |

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