We live in a world where the use of text, automated voice, email and smartphone push notifications to engage today’s consumers is no longer a luxury. Consumers have come to expect this kind of engagement from their banks and airlines, and their responsiveness and loyalty is often based on these kinds of interactions.
Will Rogers famously advised us to “always drink upstream from the herd,” but in this case health plans, providers and even exchanges that have chosen to “drink downstream” from these other industries benefit from lessons learned and are demonstrating great improvement in health consumer engagement. And, it is a must for health plans and other organizations tasked with population health management if they’re going to scale the reach of their programs beyond those members that care managers and health coaches can reach.
In my last post, I promised to share a few best practices for “automated outreach” at each of the four stages of a disease management program. With each stage of a program, there are proven industry best practices on how to use technology to automate outreach to members and engage them successfully. As with any program, the first step is simply reaching your members and enrolling them in the program. At this “Reach and Enroll” stage, automation can help boost results by cost-effectively reaching a larger number of members in a shorter period of time. For example, one of the largest population health vendors saw an enrollment increase of 50 to 80 percent across multiple contact centers.
Here are five key tips to increase member enrollment in health programs:
1. Automation through preferred channels. Traditional enrollment campaigns typically involve mailing materials to identified candidates. As the smartphone displaces other traditional forms of communication, organizations should consider adding voice messages or email to let members know to expect materials or as a follow-up after they’ve been mailed. One leading population health company implemented a similar multi-channel approach and with this simple step, it saw enrollment increase by 500 percent over non-automated programs.
At the same time, engaging members through the channel they prefer will increase engagement as well as effectiveness. Our own research shows that members exhibit commonalities in channel preference by age, gender, geography, race and income subsets. Organizations should understand who their members are and adjust their outreach strategies to match personal preferences.
2. Mobile, with permission. Increasingly, consumers want to receive service-related reminders and notifications on their mobile devices. Our research found that an equal number of members prefer reminders and notifications via text or calls to their mobile phones as those who prefer outreach to their home phones. And more than 30 percent of Millennials—those born between 1980 and the early 2000s—prefer text messages over any other method of communication.
While customers want mobile communications, organizations need to be mindful of federal and state regulations. Outreach to mobile devices requires express consent from your members before you call or text them. To successfully comply, you must discern between mobile and landline numbers and have a strategy for gaining consent. If you don’t currently have these capabilities, an automated outreach vendor can assist you.
3. Make it personal. While technology can help streamline and enable organizations to reach more members cost-effectively, it shouldn’t do so at the expense of delivering a good experience. Consumers value a more “human” interaction with automated systems. That’s why we strongly recommend that organizations use professional voice talent to properly convey the personality of their brand. And, on any channel, a personalized message will feel more authentic and carry more credibility.
4. Asymmetric calling cycles. Will Rogers also said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” The same is true for communications outreach. If you are only reaching out to your members at the same time on the same day, you’ll get the same result. By varying your communications by day of the week and time of day, you will maximize responses and ensure you reach members on their schedule instead of yours. A sophisticated automated outreach solution will have established best practices in place and provide analytics tools to determine what works best for your programs and patients.
5. Set yourself up for success. An optimal enrollment strategy initiates engagement with an automated call before the enrollment packet arrives in the mail. This practice cost-effectively engages those members who are most open to enrollment, allowing you to appropriately target a multi-channel campaign to those who need more education. A possible outreach strategy might include an automated pre-mailing call, a mailing, a live agent follow-up call and an automated “unable to reach” call, if needed.
Getting a member enrolled in a program is just the first piece of the puzzle. Next, I’ll drill down into the use of automated assessments to determine a member’s health risk and treatment knowledge, as well as monitor his/her clinical parameters. In the meantime, stop digging and read our guide, Scaling Population Health Programs with Automation, which provides step-by-step guidance on this important topic.