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Key Takeaways from Last Week’s Webinar on Improving Member Engagement

The Strategic Solution Network hosted mPulse Mobile and Martin’s Point Healthcare to discuss Improving Member Communication on Tuesday June 9, 2020 as part of the 11th Medicare Stars, HEDIS, Quality and Risk virtual event. Josh Edwards, Stars Program Manager at MartinPoint Healthcare, discussed best practices, while mPulse’s Solution Marketing Manager Jim Burke covered how data can change the conversation with the senior population and transform member engagementHere are our biggest learnings from the event: 

1. Meet Seniors Where They Are 

Jim talked about how 90% of seniors who have phones (which is also around 90%) text regularly, while only 22% of that same audience are looking for new apps. App adoption and use among seniors is also declining slightly, according to the AARP. Member communication is difficult, so plans should not make it harder by asking members to engage in channels that they don’t normally use. mPulse has found mobile channels, especially conversational SMS, to be the best way to reach the Medicare population at scale. These members, when compared to other groups that mPulse engages, truly embrace the channel: they tend to prefer longer multi-turn conversations, view follow-up reminders as caring rather than annoying, and use emojis at a higher rate than any other age group.  

2. Let the Data Drive  

Getting a clear view of your population through data was a major theme for both presentations. Leveraging data from outreach itself gives you the tools to drive behavioral actionable outcomes. Jim noted that when outreach is conversational, the information flows two ways: the member is connected to resources and servicesand the plan gains insights on member experience and barriers stopping members from taking key actions. Those insights can be difficult to gather without automated conversations and are some of the most actionable available to quality improvement teams. 

3. Reimagine the Communication Cycle  

Josh talked about the way rethinking the communication cycle can ease processes and improve engagement in the long term. He referenced his favorite process from what he calls the Pink Book” or Making Healthcare Communication Programs Work from the National Cancer Institute ( )  as a great tool that has helped him and his teamPutting a process in place, whether from the pink book” or elsewhere, keeps quality teams thinking strategically about member communication. 

It is equally important to make sure vendors are on the same page with any communication strategy. The last thing your organization wants to do is muddle the message you are trying to send members because your vendors have a different idea of what the message is or was in the first place. Josh emphasized the need to coordinate across partners and include them in the big picture of your communication process. 

4. SDOand Your Audience  

Both Jim and Josh emphasized the importance of putting your members in context. Who are you trying to reach and what type of barriers do they face to complete a key screening or refill a prescription? Uncovering barriers and tailoring content to fit your members’ challenges should be a core part of any quality improvement and member engagement strategy. SDOH effects all aspects of healthcare, including member communicationJim showed how mPulse is using SDOH Indexing before starting outreach to identify likely impact of SDOH factors on engagement. This helps adapt strategies to fit the population and anticipate engagement challenges earlier. 

5. Language Matters  

It may seem like a basic reminder, but many plans still struggle to meet member preferences around language. The very first question from the audience was about serving populations that need outreach in more than just English. Josh from Martin’s Point said the ability for outreach vendors to switch between languages is keyJim agreed that any automated system must be able to capture the preferred language both prior to sending out any communication and as members identify a preference during outreach. He also noted that content should be created within the native language when possible, as opposed to a direct translation from English.

mPulse Mobile Highlighted Among Venture-Backed Companies Facing COVID-19

Venture capital-backed healthcare firms are doing more than keeping the doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are helping consumers and healthcare organizations improve access to care, services, and information during a time of unprecedented strain on the industry.

Med City News interviewed 6 influential venture capital firms to get their tips on handling the crisis. When asked what kind of companies his firm is looking for right now, Steve Tolle, from HLM Venture Partners, and a board observer at mPulse mobile was asked about how his firm’s portfolio was dealing with the pandemic. Steve replied, “Some of them are going to benefit from this because they’re providing a valuable service that healthcare systems or providers need. … One company (mPulse Mobile) does patient engagement and mobile messaging. They’ve seen a huge uptick in demand just to get the word out to members on where to go if they have symptoms.”

Right now, investors are looking at companies that create operational efficiencies during a time of uncertainty and strained capacity. Through member engagement and mobile messaging, mPulse has proven to be a valuable partner during a time when it is crucial to get information healthcare members quickly and effectively.

COVID-19 Member Engagement: Our Top 5 Best Practices

Health plans are confronting the COVID-19 outbreak on a wide range of fronts. Member engagement and outreach has become crucial as people want to hear accurate information and access helpful resources from the organizations that manage their care. The rapidly changing nature of the crisis and the massive amount of questions and concerns that members have about it makes this a uniquely difficult communication challenge. As a partner to some of the best and largest plans in the country, mPulse Mobile has been helping our clients face that challenge, sending over 10 million messages about COVID-19 to Americans in the first week after the WHO declared it a pandemic. Three weeks in that figure has grown to over 20 million. As plans and providers grapple with how best to keep members informed while maintaining focus on delivering care and support to the members who most need it, we identified 5 key best practices to help our clients navigate COVID-19 outreach:

Focus on Efficiency

Getting accurate and timely information to your population is a top priority. As the crisis progresses, it becomes difficult to focus on building and maintaining outreach efforts, and “build-your-own” vendor tools can take deceptively long to deploy. Now is not the time to task an IT team with implementing and managing self-service tools or develop content for new channels for the first time. Work with a healthcare-focused partner with existing and ready-to-launch content to help you keep your members aware of resources you have available (e.g. telehealth, mail-order pharmacy, etc) and updates to shelter-in-place and social distancing guidance.

To help organizations launch and optimize programs quickly and confidently, we developed our COVID-19 Strategic Communications toolkit, which has details on our ready-to-launch programs and essential platform capabilities. Click here to learn more.

…But also, Be Strategic

As Covid-19 continues to evolve, it’s critical to plan outreach strategically. The urgency of the situation makes it tempting to send mass communication through emails, mailing, or broadcast phone or text outreach whenever there is new information. We have seen organizations find the most success when they work with us to plan content, channel mix, frequency, readability, and language. You want to be a consistent, trusted, and an easily accessible resource for members – that means being careful to not over-message or use channels with limited reach and engagement, or use content that is not optimized for your audience or outreach method. Strategically thinking about the way you deliver those messages will not only drive critical resources to members efficiently, it will also build a stronger long-term line of communication as conditions shift.

Help Your Staff Through Automation

Call centers are heavily impacted during this time. We have heard from clients that members are calling into nurse lines and member services centers with COVID-19-related questions at an extremely high rate. Help throttle inbound calls by leveraging the automated outreach that gets general information and self-service resources into members’ hands before they call. Proactively sending members links to telehealth options, online resources, and symptom checkers, (the CDC has one if you don’t yet will help members with COVID-related questions without calling in for additional questions.

Be Ready for Members’ Responses

Because of its unmatched reach and read rates, using SMS is an obvious best practice in crisis situations. But the conversational nature of the text channel combined with the uncertainty and dynamism of this crisis means that you need to be prepared for members to reply back with questions or concerns. In the initial weeks of the pandemic, we have seen even 1-way text campaigns that do not solicit any response receiving high levels of replies from members. Generic autoresponders that ask members to call a number for help can cause member abrasion and more inbound calls at a time when you want to avoid them (see #3). At minimum, you should ensure that member responses to COVID-19 messaging receive relevant auto-responses.

mPulse has gone a step further and developed a Natural Language Understanding domain around COVID-19. This domain reads and automatically categorizes non-standard responses so that members get questions answered and concerns addressed. It dynamically updates as members reply to outreach, so programs will get better at understanding member replies over time.

Support your entire population

While broadcast messages out to your members are fast and easy, it’s crucial to ensure your strategy accounts for differences across your members to ensure ongoing outreach is relevant and effective going forward. Utilizing zip code segmentation allows for content to be tailored to members in specific areas, allowing for updates on specific facilities, services, or public health guidance. We have also seen plans using fotonovelas to reach multicultural segments of the population. They use comic-style graphics that help break down language barriers and can be utilized during COVID-19 to showcase best practices, resources, and updated information.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed tremendous pressure on the healthcare system, including how it communicates to the populations it cares for. With these practices, plans can get the right information out to the right people efficiently and effectively. For more help, email Review our COVID-19 Strategic Communications toolkit, where you can find details on multiple COVID-19 programs. Click here to access the toolkit.