Saddling up: Best practices for engaging members in population health programs

At each stage of a population health program, there are proven industry best practices on how to use technology to automate outreach and engagement successfully. Automated channels can be used to drive adherence and gather data within population health programs.
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healthcare organizations are able to reach and engage more patients through automated outreach

In a previous post, I shared a few tips for how to use automated outreach to drive enrollment in disease management programs. In the post, I invoked a Will Rogers quote advising healthcare organizations to “drink downstream” from other industries. Banks, airlines and others have set the bar for using text, automated voice, email and smartphone push notifications to engage their customers – your patients and members – through their preferred channels.

quoteAs long as I’m quoting cowboys, John Wayne’s call to “saddle up” may have been needed for those industries a decade ago. But, healthcare organizations have no reason to be scared about using these forms of automated outreach now – especially when it comes to population health programs.

The stages of a disease management program present several opportunities to engage members beyond the initial outreach and enrollment. Automated channels can be used to drive adherence and gather data within population health programs, all while scaling the reach of programs beyond those that care managers and health coaches can reach personally.

At each stage of a population health program, there are proven industry best practices on how to use technology to automate outreach and engagement successfully. Below I’ll briefly share several of those from the subsequent stages of disease management, as detailed in our guide, Scaling Population Health Programs with Automation:

1. Leverage assessments to scale outreach and gather data

Automated assessments streamline essential data collection on topics from health risk to medication adherence and ensure you’re aware of important changes in your members’ health. Armed with this knowledge, you can then plan the best way to use resources, such as nurses and health coaches, more efficiently and free them up from calling to conduct assessments one by one.

2. Take advantage of cross-channel communications

When expanding your assessment efforts, analyze your channels to figure out how to leverage the right channel – or channels – for the right member to improve completion rates. The most effective programs we’ve seen have utilized a cross-channel approach that makes responding and engaging easy and effortless. For example, consider sending a text message with a link to a web-based assessment or prompting engagement with a voice-based assessment through automated outreach to mobile phones.

3. Drive compliance for the right quality measures

Seventy-eight percent of the members enrolled in health and wellness programs forgot to schedule a preventive or wellness appointment in the past 12 months. One of the fastest-growing uses of automation is to help members remember these key tests and screenings. When determining where to automate reminders, take care to choose services that will be significantly impacted by automated communications. For example, proactive outreach is highly likely to increase participation in breast cancer screenings but have little impact on participation in fall risk assessments.

4. Underscore the importance of your message

To further drive engagement, you can also implement more sophisticated messaging to educate members about why these services are important. Not all members will believe that a particular service, be it a flu shot or cancer screening, is of value. Consider using email, text or automated voice communications that include an initial statement of importance, with an option to hear or see more information from a credible source.

Automated outreach programs are quickly becoming an expectation of our members and patients, and there is plenty of expertise from sophisticated vendors out there to make “saddling up” relatively easy. Until you take that first step, read our guide, Scaling Population Health Programs with Automation, which provides step-by-step guidance on this important topic. But as the Duke would say, “Hurry it up. We’re burnin’ daylight.”

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Vance Clipson

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, senior principal, industry solutions for Nuance Communications, focuses on vertical-specific marketing and strategy with an emphasis on healthcare. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs for Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems and the American Cancer Society.