A new model of partnership

  • Client Location Vancouver, BC
  • Industry health, insurance
  • Client Since 2015-01-01
  • Available Links pac.bluecross.ca

What started as a digital transformation project becomes something much more: a service design partnership that delivers ongoing innovation and unlocks new opportunities.

Pacific Blue Cross came to us with an opportunity to craft a digital experience around a landmark "Member First" strategy. They also had a classic digital transformation challenge: paper reduction. The vast amounts of paper claims were a huge efficiency challenge and a glaring opportunity for digitization. 

But our relationship with this unique non-profit insurance company—British Columbia’s #1 health benefits provider—was about to take a significant and sophisticated turn, one that would result in a strategic partnership that continues to deliver innovation and unlock business value today.

Member-First

Much of what the Domain7 and PBC teams have been able to accomplish together owes its success to PBC's “Member-First” approach. By adopting a rigorous member-centric lens to identify priorities, the team was able to quickly understand that paper reduction was a good idea, but not the right problem to focus on. Early user research shone a light on two different high-value areas that urgently needed user experience upgrades: the public site and the behind-the-scenes platform that a healthcare plan member logged into to manage their claims online.

“We went through a process of grappling with understanding the member and their motivations,” explains Domain7’s Technical Project Manager, Mark Klassen. “We decided to let the member’s needs drive what we were doing instead of simply asking ‘how can we make internal operations function better?’” That pivot from operational pain points to customer insights would prove to be the right decision.

“We decided to let the member’s needs drive what we were doing instead of simply asking ‘how can we make internal operations function better?’”

Mark Klassen, Technical Project Manager, Domain7

Putting the experience front and center

In the insurance sector, the major differentiator between providers is not products, but experience. Almost everyone has had the experience of having difficulty submitting claims online, or having trouble finding information on benefits when you need it. PBC and Domain7 set out to change that for PBC customers.

An up-front time investment in UX research and vision alignment boiled down to some very practical, focused streams of work. Firstly, PBC’s site was the public face of the organization and needed to reflect the high calibre of service they aimed to give members. “If we didn't nail it there, it didn't matter what happened next,” Mark remembers. Secondly, the platform that members logged into to access their information and file claims needed to be far friendlier and more streamlined.

“We began a thorough process of engaging the right stakeholders, collaboration, doing more research, many iterations,” says Mark. Finding ways to connect meaningfully with all of the relevant teams in the organization, top to bottom, was a central challenge, and one that Mark navigated with care. “The way that Domain7’s team shows up to understand the process we're going through on our side, and why we need to go through that process, has helped us speed up some of those processes and has built a lot of trust,” explains Aaron Brady, PBC’s Director of Product and Innovation.

Ultimately the time spent to achieve alignment and understanding paid off in some impressive changes: the team shifted their technology, the way they worked, and even their team makeup.

“The way that Domain7’s team shows up to understand the process were going through on our side, and why we need to go through that process, has helped us speed up some of those processes and has built a lot of trust,” explains Aaron Brady, PBC’s Director of Product and Innovation.

UX-led technical decisions

Like many large-scale, complex organizations, PBC relies on several large technical systems. Often, as these core systems age and fail to meet ongoing needs, they’re replaced completely, resulting in big technical changes that can cripple an organization. Our team saw an opportunity to architect things differently, building one overarching UX layer that reuses components from all of PBC’s core systems. Instead of building many different front-end tools on top of siloed, individual systems, we built one experience layer that draws from all those different places, surfacing relevant information to the user in a single, high-quality, seamless experience.

The strategy gives PBC the ongoing flexibility to create new experiences in one venue, instead of many. And if a system does need to be replaced in the future, a new one can simply be plugged into the central experience layer. “This technical strategy comes out of a UX-driven mindset,” Marks says. Designed with reusable patterns and components for future efficiency, the new architecture creates nimble digital capabilities, and ultimately a more nimble organization.

Building a team. Innovating new products.

One of the things we find most fulfilling as a team at Domain7 is empowering and building into our partner organizations’ internal teams. The new architecture streamlined and brought consistency to the technologies that PBC’s teams were working with, but the project also opened an opportunity to streamline the way their technical teams worked. 

Finding an aligned and committed partner in PBC, we embraced a service design methodology, and embedded our project teams alongside theirs, working closely together to implement agile processes. “We have direct lines between our tech teams, our design teams and our executive teams,” explains Aaron. “We’re getting business value shipped a lot faster, which allows us to refine, re-prioritize and continue to see if we’re delivering business value in an ongoing basis.” As with any organization that fully embraces a user-centric way of working, the shift influenced how PBC strategizes, delivers value, and innovates.

The shift in digital capabilities unlocked more than just a better user experience at PBC: it unlocked the opportunity to develop and deliver all-new products, including a critical illness standalone insurance product. “PBC has a new platform to be able to do things they haven’t done before, or haven’t been able to do nearly as quickly before,” Mark describes. 

“In a sense, that unlocked a lot of potential that was just waiting to be leveraged in the organization.”

In a spin-off project, Domain7’s team partnered with PBC’s Innovation Team to conceptualize the digital delivery of a completely new insurance offering to the market. Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union, was looking for a partner to develop a new type of health insurance to the their business banking customers. PBC created a health insurance product for very small business—known as solopreneurs or microbusinesses. The digital delivery component was key, and our teams were able to leverage their agile working partnership to quickly prototype and validate designs to successfully bring the product to market.

“We got it out into the hands of a few of Vancity's branches, validated the idea, made tweaks and adjustments to the digital tool,” Mark explains. “Then we did a full launch that saw a lot of success. It’s a rapidly evolving product where PBC can innovate really quickly.” 

A partner for long-term, strategic success

The PBC and Domain7 partnership illustrates a new type of opportunity for strategic digital work. “We knew that we were looking for a partner who could go on a journey as opposed to simply build an app,” Aaron explains “I think Domain7’s been exceptional at walking that path with an understanding that we’re starting to share and develop and work towards a longer-term vision that looks like continuous value delivery.”

Increasingly, these types of shared journeys are the future of strategic digital work, allowing a depth and agility that delivers sharply relevant services to the market in an era of rapid flux. Soon after launch, PBC’s already seeing the impact, with a staggering 86.5% increase of traffic to the online claims submission tool. Ironically, by focusing on the user experience instead of paper reduction, the early evidence suggests that they’ve managed to shift users to the online claim process. But instead of just achieving an increase in online claims, they’re also seeing a significant uptick in engagement with all areas of their public site, and enjoying new streams of revenue from innovative new products. Altogether, it makes a strong case that “Member-First” is the right way to go.

Soon after launch, PBC’s already seeing the impact, with a staggering 86.5% increase of traffic to the online claims submission tool.

PBC’s post-launch metrics

20% increase in time on pages across corporate site
16.2% increase in page views
36% increase in page views on Member Profile
86.5% increase in views on the “Submit a claim” tool

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