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Flu Season 2021-2022: New Challenges Require New Approaches

The rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation brings new challenges for engaging members around this year’s flu. Vaccinations are at the forefront of public health news, and with many Americans remaining hesitant or on the fence about receiving a COVID vaccine, it is more critical than ever to drive education around the simultaneous importance of flu vaccines, which may not be top of mind for healthcare consumers. Health plans and providers must take an agile approach to ensure individuals are empowered to make the best and most informed decisions for their overall health.

COVID-19 and the Flu: Lessons from Last Year

During the 2020-2021 flu season, the CDC reported that only .2% of respiratory specimens tested were positive for influenza, which was significantly lower than in previous years. In the past, we have seen anywhere from 26-30% of tests returning positive results. This decline is likely attributed to the increased health and safety measures that resulted from COVID-19, such as social distancing, face masks, washing hands, etc., and could also be the record number of influenza doses distributed in the US (193.8 million).  

Several other studies have found an interesting correlation: people who received the flu vaccine were less likely to experience major health complications from COVID-19, if infected.  

The importance of maintaining these healthy habits and vaccinating against the flu regardless of COVID vaccination status must be emphasized to members with thoughtful, coordinated education and outreach.  

Predictions and a Plan of Action 

Some experts propose that since we effectively “skipped” last year’s flu season, the 2021-2022 season could be much worse. We may not have been as exposed to these pathogens throughout the past year, so our immune defenses may be weaker, and as the country reopens, we may see a significant surge in respiratory viruses.   

The flu can be challenging to predict even without the added complication of a global pandemic, so it is difficult to say what it will look like this year. Additionally, restrictions and safety mandates change frequently due to the Delta variant surge and vary state by state, which will affect exposure.     

The only constant is change, and healthcare organizations must be ready to tackle new developments and challenges that will inevitably arise throughout the course of this year’s flu season.  

 Effective flu engagement solutions for 2021-2022 should: 

  • Address barriers and questions at the individual level around both COVID-19 and the flu
  • Proactively educate with several types of content to resonate with diverse populations 
  • Adjust programs in response to the latest information   
  • Understand individual needs and provide resources on the preferred channel   

Learn more about the mPulse Mobile Flu Engagement Solution Here >>

Reimagining CAHPS & HOS Engagement

When it comes to impacting and improving member experience measures, we can easily name more challenges than we can solutions. Blinded surveys, small sample sizes, black-out rules, and perception vs. reality are just a few of the historical challenges health plan partners have faced over the years. As if those weren’t enough, now we’re looking at new and increasingly difficult obstacles this year. Some challenges to keep in mind include the following:

  • 4x weighting for the 2022 CAHPS survey to round out the increased weighting for the member experience measures which will account for over 50% of 2023 Star Ratings. 
  • Recently released Westat reports revealed an upward trend in CAHPS cut-points making it even harder to attain and maintain top performance. 
  • The Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances policy which allows plans to use the higher of the current year or the previous year’s Star Rating is expected to leave over-inflated performance in its wake, which will be difficult to maintain over the next several Stars years. 
  • NCQA’s extension of its HOS black-out period from four to eight weeks before, during and after fielding left some plans in the lurch and forced them to pivot or scrap their planned outreach and educational strategies. 
  • The temporary removal of HOS’ two 3x weighted process measures, Improving or Maintaining Physical Health and Improving or Maintaining Mental Health from the active page and onto the Display page for both the 2022 and 2023 Star Rating years. While it might be welcomed as a breather, it should not be an opportunity to lose focus, but instead an opportunity to re-evaluate your overall HOS strategy.  

 CMS isn’t backing down on its promise to lend a bigger voice to the beneficiary and each year the Medicare population continues to embrace and adopt digital communication and technology. It’s time to ditch obsolete legacy outreach programs and reimagine CAHPS and HOS engagement using the modern innovative trends and technology your members interact with daily. What consumers expect from their favorite brands, they’ll expect from healthcare. 

 mPulse Mobile, the leader in Conversational AI solutions for the healthcare industry, drives improved health outcomes and business efficiencies by engaging individuals with tailored and meaningful dialogue. mPulse Mobile combines behavioral science, analytics and industry expertise that helps healthcare organizations activate their consumers to adopt health behaviors. 

 With over a decade of experience, 100+ healthcare customers and more than 400 million conversations annually, mPulse Mobile has the data, the expertise, and the solutions to support your CAHPS and HOS engagement strategy. 

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