Technology Tuesdays: It Can Be as Simple as 411

By Arie Stock

This blog is part of Enroll America’s Technology Tuesdays blog series.

I was the last of my friends to enter the world of smartphones, so as they were browsing the internet on their blackberries, androids, and iPhones for the hippest hangouts in the city, I had to use the tried and true white pages number, 411, to find out information about the places I wanted to go. But even now, at least for me, opening up the browser on my phone and running a Google search on a tiny screen is not as easy as dialing 411. But 411 does not just provide assistance over the phone. Before the number is automatically dialed for the location you request, an automated operator offers to send you a text message with that information as well. This is especially useful when you don’t have a pen and a piece of paper to write anything down. This text message function makes it possible to “call information” no matter where you are.

Starting in October 2013, we know that consumer hotlines, call centers, and online chat features are going to play a huge role in helping people learn about their new health coverage options and enroll. But let’s not assume that every important piece of information provided over the phone will stick with the consumer. Immediately following a call, consumers could receive a text message containing the most important information from the interaction to make sure they correctly follow the next steps for enrolling in coverage. For example, “You requested coverage info for Maryland. Don’t forget to apply before the 2/28/14 deadline! Call 800-XXX-XXXX or visit xxx.com for more info.” An instant follow-up text to cement in the next important “action step” may help ensure that more people successfully complete the steps needed to enroll in (or renew) coverage.

Now, I have been text messaging for over ten years, and checking, sending, and receiving messages has become second nature. I can’t say the same for doing internet searches through my smartphone, and I’m part of the Millennial Generation! Making mobile versions of exchange websites will be critical, but exchanges and health care stakeholders can also use simpler technologies, like text messaging, to help people who either don’t have smartphones or who are more comfortable finding information using methods from the pre-smartphone era.

Feedback Encouraged: This blog, and this series in particular, is intended to encourage discussion and brainstorming. Do you think a certain strategy or technology would work particularly well in simplifying enrollment into health coverage? What are the pitfalls or hurdles to overcome? What has your organization or state already tried that did or did not work well? We welcome your ideas via email (inquiries@enrollamerica.org), and in future blogs, we hope to highlight some of the feedback we receive. 

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