Curtis Kopf tries to approach innovation in healthcare by thinking, What would Amazon do if they entered healthcare tomorrow?

And Kopf, vice president of consumer/user experience at health insurer Premera Blue Cross, is well suited to answer this question, as he worked for Inc. in the 1990s.

Kopf is bringing his experience from Amazon, Alaska Air Group Inc. and Microsoft Corp. to Premera Blue Cross, where he has worked for 18 months, to strengthen its relationships with its customers. Kopf explained his work at the Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum conference by the trade group Americas Health Insurance Plans today in Chicago.

His first initiative was to develop and launch Premera Listens, an online consumer survey tool to get feedback from customers about how the insurer can improve customer service and operations. Premera Blue Cross wanted the five-question survey to not read like a market research survey, so instead tried to use language that a normal person would use if he happened to bump into one of his customers at a party, Kopf says.

Premera sends the survey after a consumer interacts with the insurer in some way, such as using the website or seeing a doctor. The first question asks if the consumer was satisfied with the most recent encounter with Premera. If the consumer responds that she was unsatisfied, the survey immediately stops, and the next screen that pops up apologizes and asks for the consumer to enter her e-mail address or phone number so that Premera can contact her for a more detailed follow-up.


If someone tells you they had a bad experience with your product, youd lean in, you wouldnt ask more questions, Kopf says. He says this is as an example of how Premera aims to make the survey more like a normal human interaction.

If she chooses to leave her contact information, a red flagged e-mail is immediately sent to a Premera Blue Cross employee notifying him of the unhappy customer so that a customer service agent can reach out and rectify the situation within 24 hours.

Since the program launched in June, the survey has resulted in 500 red flagged e-mails, and 50% of respondents have left written comments, both of which are valuable to Premera, Kopf says. For example, Premera learned that in certain cases the health plans information management system was rejecting legitimate customers from making a payment, and that there was a glitch in its vitamin D test. It has fixed both problems.

Right now we are hitting singles, and we are really happy with singles, and we will eventually get to the big stuff, Kopf says.

If a customer leaves a positive comment and mentions a customer service agent by name, a manager can see that and can immediately forward the e-mail to the employee. This is a great source of pride for customer service representatives, Kopf says, and employees showcase the positive comments at their desks.


The survey has an 11% response rate, which Kopf considers good. He initially thought only 3% to 4% of consumers would respond to an e-mail survey.

It took Premera Blue Cross six months to build the feature, working with Seattle customer service feedback provider Customerville. Premera Blue Cross also had an internal two pizza team working on the project. A two pizza team is a self-sufficient group of employees that can fully execute the project and is small enough that two pizzas are enough to feed them, Kopf says. He estimates that the project would have taken double the amount of time if he had not established a small, dedicated team to oversee it. Overall Premera Listens did not take a lot of resources, though Kopf didnt reveal more specifics.

So, what would Amazon do if it entered healthcare? The find your doctor portal that most insurance companies have would likely be a lot easier to navigate, he says. And it would probably be personalized to each individual consumer, based on her health needs, family members and previous health history, Kopf says.

But digital healthcare has not reached the sophistication of e-commerceyet.

Right now, Kopf says, it is ridiculously hard for customers to do basic self-service things that they can do in every other industry.