Amy Chen is Crossover’s VP of Marketing and as we discovered in Part 1, brings a wealth of experience to the role. In this interview she speaks about her plans to engage a new generation of healthcare consumers as the company scales throughout the country.
One of the challenges Crossover has faced from the beginning is that the promise seems too good to be true. How do you cut through not only the competitive claims, but the skepticism of potential members?
A lot of it is about educating the healthcare consumer as I mentioned before. It’s not a simple task, but I have been given both the mandate and the freedom to figure it out. Sure, we will always offer great care, but what is really unique here are the care teams, the relationships, the multiple care channels, and just how it all comes together that is so different. Let’s face it, although being online is a massive part of people’s lives these days, it is out of most people’s experience to access care online. It’s a pretty big mental shift.
You have to assure people that they aren’t being handed off to a robot, it’s still a team of doctors and clinicians talking to them in human ways through all these new channels. That flexibility is what consumers want; but they also want simplicity, and the convenience enabled by online care. And, if we can bring all these different services together in an organized, coordinated way, then this becomes more than care, and trends into being about the value of membership as well. That is the big shift that wipes out all the noise and confusion—it can sound so great that maybe it is hard to believe.
The other engagement challenge is that members don’t think about engaging with their care teams until they’re sick. That’s a behavior several generations in the making that we have to undo. They’ve only ever engaged with “sick care,” and when they don’t feel well, they want a quick fix to that one problem instantly. We’re all about preventive care and building relationships, but it’s hard to build the relationship when their attention is on what’s wrong with them. When a member has a splitting headache, the last thing they want is a questionnaire.
My North Star is going to be that storytelling element, communicating our story in a simple but emotional way. We can explain our model, we even have the proof but I think we need member stories and videos to help it come alive. One of my thoughts is that this really is one of those “experience” products that people have to engage with to really understand how different it is. Start an Episode of Care just to meet us, to complete your annual health planning, and remove the entire framework that you only interact with your care team in those “I’m sick. Fix me” moments.
Part of your mandate is directed not just at the employee member, but at the employer client. How are you approaching that?
Employers have woken up and are realizing that they have a lot of power in healthcare. They’re still at such a nascent stage of processing the implications of that realization. And, it’s a long game. That’s why as a brand, we really do need to keep it simple, to continue to present ourselves as a streamlined solution for them to manage their healthcare costs while delivering a great experience.
Not all of our employer partners or clients or prospects are ready for the broader concept we have yet, and it’s obvious because of how, for instance, they are bringing on telehealth. Many consider telehealth a solution to control costs, because it’s cheap add on effectively popularized during the pandemic. It’s a clear indicator that they’re not there yet. They’re not thinking about healthcare strategically. They’re relying on their consultants to tell them what to do, but even the consultants are unsure of where this can and should land for employers. That’s why they’re taking all of these baby steps instead of really diving into true care delivery innovation as the means and mechanism to control costs.
Employers often have insurance companies as administrators because through self-funding, they’ve become health plans, which they don’t really want to deal with. Yet, with all the programs and point solutions the consultants recommend, they’ve effectively created their own medical groups in their benefits center anyway. One of my focuses is to help our sales team come up with a pithy way of explaining this concept to employers, helping them realize that by hiring Crossover, they have partnered with a national medical group who can do so much more than only provide care. They no longer have to manage their mental health vendor, their physical health vendor, their occupational health vendor. Those are the roles we take on which help them manage an otherwise unwieldy ecosystem. We can paint the broader picture of our brand as an integrator, organizer, and catalyst for the employer health ecosystem over time, and we hope to land this message hopefully sooner rather than later given all the change and challenge right now.
As you have leaned in on that thesis, what communication challenges are you seeing?
One of the things we do have to communicate better is how transparent we are about the costs and the value we’re delivering. CareMore was not necessarily a cheaper service, but we were clear to potential members that they were not going to be nickeled and dimed. We had considered all the inputs, including why our brand of primary care costs more, and helped create the narrative that more dollars flowing to organized, efficient CareMore meant less dollars flowing to disorganized, inefficient traditional healthcare. It was actually a simple message.
To the member, what seemed more expensive was in fact cheaper because everything was covered by their insurance. There were no copays and transportation was unlimited, because we wanted no barriers to access. We wanted patients to come in whenever they thought they needed to see a doctor because in the long run it was so much cheaper than going to the ER unnecessarily or delaying care for a condition that could get much worse.
Crossover needs to use some of the same messaging about why our cost model is the way it is for our current and potential clients. We’re not going to charge them $200 bucks now and after they sign with us, charge another $200 because of all the add-ons. I do smile when employers push back on our pricing—even as they break out the checkbook time and again to pay for additional services from other providers—because I can see how these fees are never all brought back together to be looked at holistically. It’s clear to me that the healthcare system has a long way to go to understand pricing, healthcare value, and what a good return on investment actually looks like. What will be eye-opening for health benefits teams at employers is when we communicate that the true way of reducing costs is to purchase a care model where the provider is paid a simple, budgeted fee based on performance—better outcomes and lower utilization of high-cost services. It’d very prevalent in the Medicare Advantage space and we can’t wait to bring this “Commercial Advantage” to the employers.
I understand bringing the Crossover model to Commercial Insurers is a focus for 2021. What will be your role in launching and rolling out this new product?
I’m excited. With payers, there is a true opportunity. I think it is where we are going to be able to show value very quickly, and it will actually give us even more credibility once we start showing the ROI for both national BUCA style payers but also for small regional health plans that are often more nimble and as a result can be more innovative. It’s inevitable, to use Scott’s word, that this model will take off once payers, who are like the arbiters of healthcare, see the value, and start to scale this nationally.
There’s also an additional value we bring. Payers struggle to maintain relationships with their members. I personally would never pick up a call from my health insurance provider; I would just let it go to voicemail. Even at CareMore, people didn’t pick up the phone, because they knew it was a call from the health insurance company. The Crossover model is designed and built around the concept of membership – and we invest heavily in building those long-term relationships. This is an incredible opportunity for us as the most trusted entity in the health care system—and the fact that we are connected with our members and our teams are connected make this conduit of trust even more effective.
Beyond employers and payers, I understand that you will also be pursuing an independent “retail” strategy for consumers. What will be the core message to that audience?
There’s potential in retail, and it makes sense for us to offer it, because the more members we have, the greater our impact. It’s still in the early days, but the retail success will really depend on the price point and the services offered under that pricing. People who are uninsured will probably just go to the exchanges if they’re having to pay $1,500 a year in healthcare costs anyway. There has been some healthy debate and discussion about offering components of our model, like Mental Health as a single services, instead of purchasing the entire care team all the time. We are open to testing out different models and pricing, particularly with retail clients, who may have different needs and interest than our enterprise clients.
To kick this off, we have done quite a bit of work on the various personas we anticipate would engage in this service. One is healthcare consumers who’ve had a poor experience with healthcare in general. We can offer them a very different, dynamic experience that they should at least try, if only to see what “healthcare should be” as we like to say. Another persona is someone simply looking for convenience. A third is people looking for trusted healthcare guidance. And, of course, there are many more that we will be exploring as well.
It’s my job to ensure that acquiring these customers is as inexpensive as possible, and I think it all goes back to storytelling. Just like with employers, people don’t want AI or robots taking care of their health, and the stories show that you can have real, trusted relationships in new ways. We will initiative all of these efforts in 2021, but won’t kick this into high gear until 2022 as the business puts revenue and growth targets against this area in the future.
You have two girls. Can you share how your role as a marketing leader impacts your role as a mother?
It’s not my role in marketing specifically that has the biggest impact on my role as a mother. It’s important to me that my girls see me working and building a fulfilling career. I share with them stories about work, about leading my team and collaborating with colleagues, and about frustrations and worries, so that they understand that work may not always be fun but it should be challenging in a good way. Unfortunately, they probably have a very skewed view of my work right now being all zoom calls and nothing else. Ultimately, I’m proud to be where I am today and I want my girls to feel empowered, to know that women can and should be in leadership roles, and to feel comfortable picking up the mantle should they get the right opportunity on whatever path they choose. What will always be a challenge is that my work-life balance will never be perfect. There are some stretches of time where I feel like a visitor in my own home but I try to spend as much time as I can with them and my husband. The pandemic has actually allowed my family and me to spend a lot more quality time together. And, for that, I am very grateful.
I understand you are a huge reader. I’m interested in how you find the time?
I have a book list and I’m actually a big public library user. So I put a hold on as many books on my list as I can, and check them out on paper or with my Kindle. I read every chance I get so, every night before bed and on weekends. My daughters know that if the Kindle is up, just don’t talk to me until I look up. Luckily for me, my daughters have picked up this passion as well, so it warms my heart when there are moments during the day where all three of us are sitting in a room just reading. It’s my favorite time of the day.
Have any books impacted you as a marketer?
Oh, I’ve read so many, it’s hard to say. Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm is a classic. I have mostly stopped reading business books though. I find if I can’t get through the first couple of chapters, I’m out. I really resonate more with good storytelling. Isabel Wilkerson’s book, “Caste, the Origins of our Discontents” came out last year, and had a real impact on me from a cultural and social justice perspective.
Many thanks to Peter Heywood (one of our long-standing brand advisors and business consultants) who helped conduct these interviews. You can search for Peter’s other Crossover Leader Series Interviews here.
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