Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post published by permission of its author.
Boosting health plan member loyalty and improving health outcomes are two parallel objectives vital to health plan success. For Medicare Advantage plans, a one-percentage point increase in member retention through the Annual Enrollment Period or a one-point STAR rating improvement can represent millions in revenue and enhanced profitability. Effective patient engagement strategies that promote healthy lifestyles can improve member retention. The following tips are recommendations to retain and engage members in pursuing healthy lifestyles.
Step 1: Start Small; Move Slowly; Create Successful Experiences
Behavior change doesn’t occur overnight. Rather, success breeds success. Plans do best when they stop short of asking members to demonstrate early, substantial behavior change, and instead engage members slowly, offering prompts and encouragement for small victories like taking medication or making doctors’ appointments. For example, a 12-week program might include separate units such as goal setting, medication management, blood glucose testing, diet, exercise, or risk reduction. By providing health information and alerts in small “doses” over multiple weeks, plans can support members through the delicate process of learning, engaging, and changing.
Step 2: Educate, Educate, Educate – But Have Fun, Too
Member education need not involve long, turgid paragraphs and complex jargon. While health information must fit the criteria of relevance, timeliness, reliability, and credibility, it should also be fun and entertaining. One of the best approaches is to use storytelling where members or celebrities chronicle their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. Among the healthcare organizations that have already tapped the power of patient stories are providers like the Mayo Clinic, which features its stories on YouTube, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Few things are more powerful than a well-told member story embedded with easy-to-access tips, guidelines, and multimedia resources.
Step 3: Reach Members Via Popular Communication Channels
Engage members via communication channels they know, understand, and use on a regular basis. While some consumers still prefer direct mail, print publications, and phone communications, others live and work in an environment dominated by e-mail, text reminders, and an ever-growing portfolio of web and mobile applications. The best approach is to not abandon traditional mediums, but to offer a broad spectrum of channels and technologies to effectively reach all members. In this way, a plan will improve its odds of reaching every member to engender behavior change and encourage adoption of healthier lifestyles. The optimal engagement platform would likely include a personal portal; multimedia delivery of information (TV, online, mobile and print); educational content; interactive components; a variety of weekly and monthly communications; community forums; and reminders and reinforcements.
Step 4: Develop Partnerships to Leverage Brand Equity
Forge relationships with companies that have already earned members’ recognition and respect. Then, develop co-branded solutions with the power to garner members’ ongoing attention, appreciation, and trust. In a crowded space, it is hard just to get members’ attention and trust. Leveraging trusted brands, as Humana has done with dLife, can help plans cut through the noise and increases the likelihood that a member tunes into the most effective self-care management messages. Make sure any co-branded solution is closely integrated with your plan’s existing services—in messaging, look, feel, tone, and delivery.
Step 5: Offer High-Quality Services at Competitive Rates, but Mind the Store
Before establishing a behavior-change solution, ensure the cost structure fits your plan’s design. Make sure that the program aligns with your organization’s business objectives and financial goals, and align any program costs and potential revenue with expectations. One tip to reduce per-member costs is to leverage existing assets and rely on digital media more so than expensive clinician services.
Sean Foster is Chief Executive Officer at dLife. Foster has a proven track record of building and optimizing digital behavior change programs. Leveraging his experience at Weight Watchers, Avon, and The Gilt Groupe, he has a keen insight into what it takes to engage consumers to create positive outcomes. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at (203) 454-6985.