Somewhere around 2015 I became a customer and patient of the Anthem Group. Previously, I’d been with Aetna. To those unfamiliar with the American and Californian healthcare system: if you’re hired, you must get insured, either through a medical plan or through your employer’s network. Upon getting hired, you pick your health plan.

Easy?

No, it’s not.

Maybe it’s because the healthcare industry seems to have one of the worst usability problems. One would expect that if a new patient logs into the network portal for the first time AND the patient doesn’t have a primary care physician (which the person must have), then the website should somehow nearly force the person to pick one. Does it do it?

NO.

So even if you dig through the menu for an option to search for a primary doctor or a dentist, presented to you will be a following option:

So yes, this doctor is in the network. I can see directions to his office, phone number, address, and all sorts of other details, but… well, how do I pick this doctor?

I started an online chat with an assistant, and they helped me with the selection.

Did it help?

Kind of. For my dentist, it did work, but I went through the same problems while picking my primary doctor. It seems that somehow (randomly?) a default PCP is assigned to you. If you want to pick your PCP, you’ll end up struggling since a lot of decent PCPs don’t accept any new patients. The website’s database is out of sync with the reality, so some of the doctors who’re listed as accepting new patients no longer do, which leads to you getting health plan cards without a doctor’s names:

Solution: Make doctors report once a week on whether they are accepting new patients or not. Display this information for patients. Add big green buttons saying, “Pick as PCP,” on the doctor’s profile. Queue the request until handled. E-mail me if something went wrong, and please do not send me empty health plan cards.

Why all these things are so important? You don’t want to know–I went to a wrong doctor once, got charged for it, and don’t want to repeat this experience.

Have you ever had similar issues?