As consumers’ reliance on mobile devices to interact with healthcare providers increases, they want the personalized user experiences they are accustomed to from other mobile interactions when using their smartphone to shop, communicate and research topics online.

To provide the user experience patients want, customer communications software provider Relay Network developed a web-based mobile communications platform that allows healthcare providers to deliver personalized interactions to patients via their mobile phone.

So far 15 Blue Cross Blue Shield plans representing more than 30 million consumers are using Relay’s platform to engage patients through text messages pushed to a patient’s mobile phone. Notifications can include information about a patient’s health plan, links for finding an in-network provider, information about managing a chronic condition such as asthma, or scheduling an appointment with their doctor.

For example, an insurer can use Relay’s platform to ask a patient if he has received his annual flu shot. If the patient replies no, he is shown a link to a landing page that can help him find a local physician or clinic where he can receive a flu shot and to schedule an appointment if necessary.

“Messages are intended to spur immediate action on the patient’s part, not serve as a reminder that the patient may or may not act on,” says Steve Gillin, president, Relay Network


Adoption rates among patients averages between 30% and 40%, Gillin says. From 2015 to 2016 the number of patients connected to Relay’s platform grew two-fold but didn’t release more specific numbers, the company says.

Patients engaging with their health insurers through the platform are more likely to follow recommended actions by their health insurer to proactively manage their health. Patients are 160% more likely to follow through on a recommendation from their health insurer to get a preventive screening; 64% of patients have acted on a recommendation to switch from a brand name to generic drug to lower their prescription costs; and patients are 175% more likely to review their health plan, Relay says. In addition, health insurers using Relay’s platform have seen a 130% increase in patients registering on their patient portals and a 57% closure on patient care gaps. A care gap is a disparity between health care needs and health care services.

“The messages are intended to immediately engage and educate the patient about information and services from which they can benefit,” says John Auger, director, channel management, for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island. “A patient that is enrolled on the platform and contacting the call center with a question about diabetes can be pushed information about diabetes management by the service agent that he might otherwise have difficulty finding on our website.”

To enroll patients onto the Relay platform, Blue Cross of Rhode Island will attach a sticker to new members’ identification cards directing them to contact the call center to confirm receipt of the card. During the call, the customer service representative will ask the member if he wants to opt-in to the Relay platform. If the patients answers yes, he is asked to provide his mobile phone number. Patients contacting the insurer’s interactive voice system or a call center agent with questions about their health plan are also asked to opt-in. Members can also enroll through the insurer’s web portal. All messages are sent via Relay’s platform.

One of the key benefits of Relay’s platform for health insurers is that it can be used to proactively keep patients apprised of the health benefits, such as deductibles or explanations of forthcoming bills. “About 75% of call center calls result from member confusion about benefits or bills,” Gillin says. “Proactive messaging can reduce these types of calls.”


Other Blue Cross plans using Relay’s platform include Independence Blue Cross of Pennsylvania and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

Relay declines to reveal what it charges health insurers to connect to its platform. The company does say, however, that insurers pay only for the members that use the platform.