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Answering the Demand for Consumerism in Healthcare

7 Ways to Meet Healthcare Consumers Online and Boost Your Member Experience

“Healthcare consumerism” – it’s a buzzword heard a lot over the past few years as the healthcare industry has evolved to be more consumer-centric, and all healthcare professionals should know and understand it. Patients are taking a more proactive role in their own health and wellness (long overdue), acting as purchasers and turning to digital solutions for quick and convenient access to healthcare information, products and care. As consumers, they now demand more control and responsibility for selecting the right health plan that best fits their needs and the needs of their families. Once a member, they want relevant and timely information regarding their plan and benefits at their fingertips.

It’s important to ensure health plans are providing the support and resources needed for healthcare consumers to make educated and informed decisions about their health and benefits. 

The first question to ask: what are the key resources to provide?

1. A Digital Front Door

In a recent article, Advisory Board identified four main goals of the digital front door:

  • improve satisfaction with a simplified member experience 
  • expand access to care 
  • optimize resource allocation (often through self-service tools) 
  • reduce unnecessary treatment through better care coordination 

For these reasons, investing in digital front doors should be the highest priority for health plans and other healthcare organizations. Consumers today expect a digital experience in many elements of their lives, and their health is no exception. 

To achieve these goals, health plans can focus on providing digital resources through their portals, such as care team messaging, helpful chatbots, pre- and post-visit or operation educational resources, disease management tools, and online premium payments. The more a member can do online and through their portal, the happier they are as a healthcare consumer.

2. Omnichannel Digital Engagement

Omnichannel engagement strategies are used by successful brands to lure customers, learn about their behaviors, and drive loyalty. They allow brands to create a series of touchpoints and to reach people through their preferred channels. Obsolete methods of communication, such as direct mail, lack personalization and the ability to collect data at scale. 

When healthcare organizations use omnichannel digital engagement, they are able to reach consumers in the way they prefer and provide a more enjoyable member or patient experience. Without an omnichannel communication strategy, it’s impossible to effectively deliver appropriate resources and education to a broad member database.

Want to learn more about omnichannel digital engagement? Download our white paper: From Members to Consumers » 

Below are just a few examples of digital ways to engage and activate more consumers and engage them about impactful topics that have significant impact on the member experience.

  • Interactive voice response (IVR) 
  • Email 
  • Mobile web 
  • Short message service (SMS) 
  • Multimedia message service (MMS) 
  • Rich communication services (RCS) channels

3. Tailored Plan Shopping

Each healthcare consumer has a unique set of needs to be met and features that are important to them when searching for a health plan. Desired monthly premiums, copay and deductible amounts, in-network doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, chronic illness support, and so much more. Searching through and finding the right health plan based on all of these things can be an overwhelming and complicated process. 

According to the 2023 KFF Survey of Consumer Experience with Health Insurance, nearly one in three adults with Marketplace coverage (31%) found it very or somewhat difficult to compare copays and deductibles under their plan options, and one in four (25%) found it very or somewhat difficult to compare monthly premiums. 

Simplify the plan shopping process through an intuitive questionnaire that gathers information from the consumer that can then be used to present them with the health plan that makes the most sense. Taking the burden off the consumer to do the hard work boosts their confidence in making the right selection and will lead to higher member satisfaction down the road. 

4. Provider Search

Consumers spend a lot of time online researching practices, providers, and more. In fact, more than 3 in 4 patients (77%) look for doctors online often according to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives survey. One of the top places patients start looking is their online insurance directories, with 53% of patients saying online insurance directories contribute to their doctor selection decision. 

Providing correct and updated information for all providers, as well relevant search filters such as location, type of provider, gender, language spoken, and whether they are accepting new patients, are helpful in a consumer’s search. The easier you can make it for a member or potential member to find the information they need, the happier they will be with their health plan experience. 

5. Price Transparency Tool

Health plan price transparency tools help consumers know the cost of care or service before seeing a provider. The State of Patient Access 2023, completed by Experian Health, found that: 

  • 65% of patients said they did not receive an estimate prior to care, with 41% of those respondents said final costs were more than expected 
  • 40% of all patient respondents said they were likely to cancel or postpone care without an accurate estimate 
  • 79% of all patient respondents say an accurate estimate helps them better prepare to pay care costs 
  • 88% said receiving a price estimate before care is important 

Not having the cost estimates they need is leading healthcare consumers to defer treatment and avoid the care they need, leading to increased hospitalization and complications from preventable diseases. 

By providing a price transparency tool and giving members the opportunity to access this information before a visit, procedure, or purchase, health plans are giving consumers the ability to make informed decisions that best meet their needs and financial situation and help improve health outcomes. 

From Members to Consumers: How plans are adopting popular digital trends from leading consumer brands to drive better health outcomes » 

6. Easy-to-Understand Member Statements and Benefits Overview

A recent KFF Survey of Consumer Experiences with Health Insurance asked insured adults about how well they understand key aspects of their health insurance. Half (51%) of insured adults say they find at least one aspect of how their insurance works at least somewhat difficult to understand.

 These items caused the most confusion: 

  • What insurance covers – More than one-third (36%) of all insured adults say it is at least somewhat difficult for them to understand what their insurance will and will not cover 
  • Out-of-pocket costs – Thirty percent of insured adults overall say it is difficult for them to understand what they will owe out-of-pocket when they get health care 
  • Explanation of Benefits (EOB) – Three in ten insured adults say they find it difficult to understand whether or how much insurance will pay for care from looking at their EOB 
  • Basic health insurance terminology – A quarter of all insured adults say they have difficulty understanding specific terms, such as “deductible,” “coinsurance,” “prior authorization,” or “allowed amount.” 

Health plans can alleviate this confusion by providing resources that help their members understand their coverage. Through the member portal, plans should show up-to-date information regarding what is available to members with their benefits or even plan discounts, explain and outline their deductible and out-of-pocket maximums in a member-friendly manner, and inform them of their benefit accumulators for both in-network and out-of-network services. Using a built-in glossary to define key terminology can also help members as they sort through the information being presented to them. 

7. Member and Patient Education 

One major factor impacting the member and patient experience is health literacy. With 35% of the adult US population having basic or below basic health literacy, education is vital to ensuring a positive member or patient experience.

To combat the health literacy challenge, the healthcare industry must reimagine what member and patient education looks like. Healthcare consumers are, at the end of the day, simply consumers, and consumers ingest content and information continuously every day from a multitude of sources: short, bite sized videos on social media, streaming services for shows and movies, a large volume of self-produced content, and more.

Taking inspiration from all around us and applying it to member and patient education means engaging with healthcare consumers in the ways they are showing us they like, enjoy, and want. When engaging with members, you can send short, bite sized videos on why getting vaccinated from the flu is important or a full course they can stream to learn about managing their diabetes.

And this type of streaming health content has proven to be an effective method of capturing the health consumer’s attention. One large national plan which partnered with mPulse on digital outreach saw a 274% increase in link clicks to schedule their annual eye exam when this video was utilized vs when no video was sent.

Getting Started

The second question to ask: why should a health plan make the commitment and investment to provide these resources?

Health plans who implement these tools for their members can gain: 

  • Increased member acquisition and retention 
  • Higher member satisfaction 
  • Operational efficiency 
  • Competitive advantage   

How can health plans get started if they already aren’t doing these things? 

Reach out to mPulse to learn more about our product offering and how we can help you answer the demand for healthcare consumerism. Our products are built to provide your members with the resources they need to be educated, informed, and proactive about their health.

Article originally published on healthtrio.com.

Digitizing Equity: Transforming Medicaid with Technology and Empathy

Medicaid is a vital safety net for millions of low-income and vulnerable individuals across the U.S. However, glaring health disparities persist within the program.

The pandemic underscored the stark health inequities among marginalized communities, including BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), LGBTQIA+, people who are neurodivergent, and people with differing physical abilities. These challenges are especially pertinent to Medicaid, since more than half of Medicaid enrollees are people of color, and an estimated 20 percent are considered disabled.

Although tackling health inequities is a massive, multi-stakeholder undertaking, innovative solutions and strategic changes can have a significant impact, especially in the realm of digital health technology.

Digital health tools play a crucial role in eliminating health inequities and improving care for all. But technology alone isn’t the answer. Investing in technology without a clear strategy to advance equity can actually exacerbate existing inequities. Instead, health organizations need to address health equity by combining data-driven practices with a whole-person approach that grounds services in humanity and ensures all people receive the care they deserve.

Why Medicaid has Vast Health Disparities

Health organizations are undergoing a reckoning about the ways the insurers, providers and the greater healthcare community have failed marginalized communities. Tangible steps must be taken to fix systemic problems.

That includes viewing health from the whole-person perspective. It’s estimated that about 80 percent to 90 percent of health outcomes can be attributed to social determinants of health (SDOH) – non-medical factors such as socioeconomic conditions, environmental factors, race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and gender identification (SoGI).

It can be all too easy for providers to make assumptions. For example, some providers may write off a Latino patient as non-compliant when they don’t take prescribed medicines without further investigation or may ignore a female patient’s pain because it was seen as common period symptoms. However, a Latino patient may not take medication because it’s cost-prohibitive or they don’t have a pharmacy near them, while the other patient’s pain could be a symptom of a more serious illness that requires medical intervention.

If a provider has more time to connect with patients, listen to their perspectives and treat them as individuals, they can better identify their needs and identify solutions, such as prescribing a lower-cost formulary or scheduling a follow-up appointment with a specialist.

While these SDOH-related health disparities exist for all individuals, Medicaid members face another unique hurdle that affects their healthcare experiences – stigma and negative stereotypes about their use of government services. Although individuals must meet stringent criteria to qualify for Medicaid, organizations and even providers themselves may perpetuate stereotypes about people who need government services — increasing barriers to care rather than eliminating them.

It doesn’t help that there are significant data gaps among Medicaid populations that hinder organizations from understanding and addressing the myriad factors impacting people’s health outcomes and access. Approximately one in five Medicaid beneficiaries are missing information related to their race and ethnicity. These gaps make it even more challenging to pinpoint and prioritize areas for health equity initiatives.  

So, with all of this in mind, what can health organizations do to address these complex challenges and bridge the health equity gap?  Advancements and innovations in digital technology create new opportunities for health organizations to identify and track health disparities, and target services and medical interventions for vulnerable populations.

But to make progress on health equity goals, organizations need strategies and structures that put people at the center of the health care experience.

3 Ways to Reduce Health Barriers

While digital tools and data-driven strategies can streamline processes, reduce friction and enhance consumer experience and engagement, effectively using these tools to serve and support vulnerable populations poses a unique challenge.

The following considerations can help organizations focus their technology strategy to better support those who are most in need.

Focus on establishing trust.

Trust is often the determining factor when it comes to a patient refilling their prescription, showing up to a follow-up appointment or making a healthy change in their behavior. But establishing trust among Medicaid beneficiaries can be even more challenging in light of the historical medical discrimination and mistreatment of marginalized populations, as well as government recipients’ current experiences with medical bias.

Building trust requires empathy, transparency, and an in-depth understanding of individuals and their unique needs. Robust data analytics can help with this. By collecting and analyzing data on race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation and gender identity, healthcare organizations gain actionable insights that can help identify disparities and tailor interventions to meet the unique needs of diverse populations.

With a better understanding of these needs, organizations can treat Medicaid beneficiaries as individuals and begin to rebuild the critical link of trust with their beneficiaries.

Meet people where they are. 

Another way health organizations can increase access to care is by providing beneficiaries with meaningful interactions and tailored personalized engagement. In fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers would access additional care if their healthcare experiences were more personalized.

In particular, health plans should focus on improving accessibility to healthcare information and communicating with Medicaid members on channels they already know and use. For 85 percent of Americans, that’s on their smartphones. Digital health programs that use text messaging and other mobile channels can deliver personalized health information, reminders and resources to individuals in a convenient setting.

Programs like the national Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) are helping close the digital divide (the inequitable access to computing devices and stable high-speed Internet) that can alienate Medicaid recipients, especially in rural communities.

Texting and other mobile technologies can not only provide timely updates and appointment reminders; they can also offer valuable educational materials. For example, health plans and providers can inform members of the importance of mammograms while removing common fears or provide members with limited literacy skills with high-quality videos that utilize best practices in learning strategy. By meeting beneficiaries on their terms (without condescension or stigmatization), health organizations can remove points of friction and make services more accessible.

Build for scalability. 

It’s not enough to build digital experiences that only work in a single scenario or specific moment. Health organizations need to build processes that scale across operations and alongside organizations as they continue to grow. Artificial intelligence and automation are valuable tools to help organizations achieve these goals.

Administrative costs comprise a majority of health system waste, with at least half of administrative spending deemed wasteful. Automating manual tasks and supercharging data-driven decisions enables organizations to streamline burdensome administrative processes and enhance the overall efficiency of healthcare delivery at scale, ultimately improving care for patients.

While artificial intelligence technologies have vast potential to improve healthcare delivery, it’s crucial to ensure AI tools are used responsibly and avoid perpetuating existing disparities or biases in data sources. To minimize the potential negative effects of AI, set rigorous safeguards and standards that adhere to best practices established by trusted entities, like the Coalition for Health AI.

The Imperative for Digital Innovation

“Healthcare as usual” isn’t optimal for Medicaid enrollees, health organizations or anyone for that matter.

Programs that fail to address underlying disparities lead to greater inefficiencies and higher costs for organizations. In fact, treatment of chronic conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes and heart disease costs the U.S. $320 billion a year resulting from health inequities — and unaddressed health disparities costs could balloon to $1 trillion by 2040.

Technology adopted in a vacuum won’t solve deep-seated health disparities. But by pairing digital investments with meaningful conversations and support for Medicaid beneficiaries, we can begin to break down barriers and accelerate progress toward a more equitable healthcare system for all.

This article was originally published on healthdatamanagement.com on December 20, 2023.

How Patient-Centered Communication Can Address Maternal Health Inequities

August 2023

This article was written by Eden Brownell, Director of Behavioral Science at mPulse Mobile, and was originally published on www.physicianspractice.com on August 9, 2023.

The United States is among the most dangerous wealthy nations for women to give birth.

Disturbingly, it’s even more dangerous for women of color. Black women are about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, while maternal mortality rates among American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) women are two times higher. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these issues.

Maternal mortality rates underscore this country’s deep-rooted health inequities. Although this problem is endemic, it’s not intractable. In fact, more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are preventable.

The healthcare system must work to address all of the factors that contribute to maternal health inequalities, including barriers to care, systemic inequities, and how health plans communicate with consumers.

We can improve maternal health outcomes with digital trends by breaking down these barriers and improving communication.

How poor health communication adds to maternal health inequalities and risks

There are myriad factors that contribute to the disproportionate rates of maternal deaths among Black women and women of color.

They include

  1. structural racism and biases within the healthcare system,
  2. limited access to quality providers and facilities in marginalized communities, and
  3. socioeconomic barriers (such as lack of insurance coverage and financial constraints)

And these are only a few of the challenges.

Inadequate patient communication exacerbates many of the inequalities in maternal health problems. For example, marginalized communities often have lower rates of health literacy and higher levels of distrust of health providers, making it difficult to navigate our complex healthcare system.

Or consider someone with limited transportation options. They may be more likely to delay or miss prenatal check-ins or obtain necessary interventions, treatments, and prescriptions that providers recommend. It does little good for a health plan to send follow-up reminders or other messages that don’t consider this barrier. Instead, messages should prompt follow-up conversations that urge people to arrange other transportation options, if necessary.

Likewise, if educational materials and health content don’t provide clear, accessible, and culturally relevant information, health plans will struggle to connect, engage, and build trust with vulnerable populations. That includes addressing language barriers and offering materials in different languages, along with interpreters and translation services that are readily available. Without these supports, marginalized communities may be more susceptible to misinformation and less likely to understand all of the facets of prenatal and postpartum care, whether it’s the stages of pregnancy, warning signs of potential complications, birthing options, or more.

How to build a better patient communication strategy

The stark disparities in maternal health outcomes for marginalized populations highlight the importance of intervention.

Targeted patient health communications and engagement can help

  1. overcome the socioeconomic barriers associated with prenatal and postpartum care,
  2. reduce health risks, and
  3. empower pregnant individuals to actively participate in their healthcare decisions

Consider taking the following steps to build a patient-centered communications strategy that will address the needs of marginalized populations and improve maternal healthcare outcomes for all patients throughout your health system:

1. Promote cultural competence throughout the organization

Cultural competence that respects and understands all communities’ diverse backgrounds and experiences should be the standard for all health plans today. Health equity should be prioritized as a strategic goal and a central component of your mission. Leaders must acknowledge existing disparities and build a clear plan to address them.

It’s encouraging that many health plans have created roles specifically to focus on health equity issues. Still, these initiatives must be backed by tangible action and dedicated resources organization-wide. Developing cultural competence and addressing implicit biases through routine training and ongoing education for all employees should be part of your larger DEI goals.

These efforts are the first step toward building the right internal culture throughout your organization and ensuring all touchpoints — whether digital or in-person — will be informed by cultural competence.

2. Actively collaborate with impacted communities

The best way to ensure your digital health solution resonates with marginalized communities is to collaborate directly with impacted community members. Key community stakeholders can help identify specific needs, cultural preferences, and barriers to care that your organization may overlook or fail to understand.

For example, one client at mPulse — a digital health solutions provider where I lead behavioral science — is a medical system that serves low-income populations and individuals struggling to access care. This medical system worked directly with pregnant mothers to develop a prenatal texting care program. Members of the group came up with key phrases and terms to avoid, such as messages in an overly authoritative voice that could trigger psychological resistance to information. By actively involving community members in the planning and implementing healthcare programs, as our client did, you

can build rapport and develop tailored approaches that connect with the populations you aim to serve.

3. Incorporate behavioral science principles

Behavioral science has become a crucial component of health engagement programs. Incorporating behavioral science into maternal healthcare communications can directly impact health outcomes during your patients’ pregnancies.

For example, mPulse worked with mothers and maternal care experts to develop a prenatal engagement campaign incorporating the behavioral science principles of “social proof” and “storytelling,” with videos of mothers from various communities sharing their stories and experiences.

By highlighting the experiences and stories of pregnant individuals within the community, health plans can foster greater trust, dispelling many common concerns from mothers and increasing the likelihood that they would engage and respond to outreach materials.

4. Prioritize data-driven decisions

Health plans collect an abundance of data about their members — so it’s important to use that information. Data enables you to better understand the barriers and needs of marginalized populations so you can tailor interventions and outreach efforts to address barriers more effectively and build more personalized, relevant experiences that resonate with patients. For example, knowing that someone recently joined Medicaid can inform which educational healthcare content you send them, like how they can navigate insurance throughout their pregnancy.

Data analytics can also help in deploying behavioral science methods. For instance, cognitive overload often causes members to become overwhelmed and tune out vital information. Analyzing viewership and engagement with online videos can inform the length and substance of those videos. If you find a majority of members stop watching content about the risks of aspirin during pregnancy, you may start to develop shorter, quick-hit videos optimized for Facebook, TikTok, or other social media platforms.

5. Use multiple communication channels.

In today’s digital landscape, consumers interact with health plans through various touchpoints, such as

  • online,
  • on their phones,
  • at telehealth visits,
  • at the clinic or
  • in a provider’s office

You should leverage a variety of patient communication channels to reach marginalized populations no matter how they interact with your organization.

Beyond traditional channels like phone and email, you can broaden reach and engagement through community events, social media, and partnerships with trusted community leaders and influencers. Multiple avenues for engagement are particularly important when addressing underlying social determinants like homelessness or unstable housing—these members may not have access to a single, consistent communication channel.

Improving maternal healthcare among marginalized populations demands a multifaceted approach centered on cultural competence and active engagement with communities. And today’s advanced digital tools offer new opportunities to put these tenets into practice within your health plans.

By embracing these approaches and adopting a patient-centered mindset, health plans can begin to bridge the gaps in maternal health inequalities and achieve better outcomes for all. Together, we can work toward a future where every pregnant individual receives the care and support they need to experience a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

Health Equity, Part 2: Optimizing Digital Strategies to Increase Data Representation

From as early as the 16th century, humans have been using the scientific method to collect data points and make decisions based on objective observations. As societal systems have advanced, methods for data collection have also expanded, ranging from surveys, interviews, focus groups, and secondary data analyses. Still, these methods were not designed to adjust for the stratifying systems of our current society—such as ableism, racism, sexism, classism, and colonialism—leaving significant room for error to exclude historically marginalized populations, and in the case of health outcomes, lead to larger health disparities. 

We look to data to counter inaccurate beliefs with science and facts. Building a strong evidence base of data has become a precursor to driving important, strategic decisions. Today, data is everywhere. How do we make the most of it?

Principles For Data Equity 

The solution is twofold: we must 1. find ways to make the data more representative of the populations being served and simultaneously 2. include the narrative around the data that cannot be collected. For a more equitable dataset, the CDC Foundation’s Principles for Using Public Health Data to Drive Equity provides tools to center equity in the data life cycle, hinging on recognizing and defining systemic factors, using equity-mindedness for language and action, and allowing for cultural modification.

At mPulse mobile, we embed these equitable practices throughout our data lifecycle to bring a focus on health equity, prioritize deeper community engagement strategies, and address the social and economic factors that affect health outcomes.

When Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story 

When a group is not represented in data collection—whether they are accidentally excluded, non-responsive, or dropped out because they have more barriers to engagement—there is a sampling bias in the data that can have long-lasting consequences for entire communities. 

This happens when data is unavailable for a marginalized group and is not accounted for in adjustment methods. It translates into data analyses and reporting, and consequently, excludes these groups from key decisions. This can lead to already marginalized groups being overlooked in program design, policymaking, resource allocation, funding, and more, systemically putting them at an even further disadvantage. Historically, this has led to race neutral policies, such as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and redlining. When these decisions are made across housing and built environment, education access, economic stability, and food policy they also affect an individual’s overall health outcomes.  

An example of this is the race and ethnicity data collection process. As the US population demographic has diversified, the racial designations on surveys have not: all Asians are grouped together along with Pacific Islander. They do not account for the many various identities that exist within these populations. Inclusivity needs to intentionally be built into data collection methods, to ensure that people who are not a part of the demographic majority are also represented within the data. 

In a data-driven world, it is crucial to use an equity lens throughout data collection, analyses, and reporting. This can drive better decisions, efficiency, increase revenue, and arguably most importantly, even help lower premature illnesses and preventable deaths.

Overcoming Barriers: Reducing the Burden 

Health equity work is a gradual process of undoing harmful, institutionalized rules and making new rules striving toward justice. This begins with making sure everyone’s data points are included: 

  1. Recognizing the barriers that prevent populations from being a part of the narrative and 
  1. Providing means to overcome these barriers 

Digital outreach has vastly improved data collection methods—it overcomes multiple barriers such as the time it takes to get to a location, saves on transportation, can offer multiple languages, etc. 

mPulse Select Outcomes
mPulse Select Outcomes

Data Equity: Building Trust and Striving to Justice 

One barrier that has proved harder to overcome is medical mistrust. Stemming from the adverse treatment dating back to exploitation of enslaved Black bodies to do scientific research, there is a deep-rooted distrust among Black Americans towards medical professionals. This medical mistrust results in underutilization of services, weathering, and missing data. While there is no quick fix, promoting and supporting doctors of color, teaching cultural humility, and updating medical guidelines are a start to building more equitable practices within health systems. 

Black and brown patients are now poorly represented in clinical and drug studies, leading to a large data—and knowledge—gap, that translates to misdiagnoses. For example, literature has taught medical professionals what skin symptoms look like on white skin, but have not shown how they may look different on black and brown skin. The missing data points result in missing information and knowledge gaps for providers, subsequently leading to misdiagnoses, and ultimately creating greater health disparities for people with darker skin.

Data to Impact Journey (famously known as Information vs Knowledge)— Source: Gaping Void

Data to Impact Journey (famously known as Information vs Knowledge)— Source: Gaping Void

When looking at data, we cannot rely on the raw numbers alone. It is equally important to analyze who is not fairly represented and qualitatively share the barriers that have led to their data exclusion. If we cannot remove barriers in data collection, there are other ways to uplift the unheard voices into the overarching narrative. To glean more useful insights from the population trends and patterns we collect, it is critical to understand the context behind the numbers.

Digital Solutions: Practical Approaches to Representational Fairness 

Health equity is central to the creation of our HEDIS gap-closure oriented Engagement Solutions: they promote health literacy, demonstrate cultural competency, increase accessibility, and address social determinants of health by: 

Our engagement strategy intentionally uses data disaggregation to ensure representation of marginalized populations and address social determinants of health (SDoH). Using a proprietary SDoH Index, which leverages a weighting system to maximize its predictive ability, we provide tailored, relevant, and empathetic conversations to members. These solutions are designed to be comprehensive, multilevel, adaptable, and culturally appropriate for populations experiencing health disparities. Insights gained from outcomes can be funneled back into existing Engagement Solutions to provide targeted, relevant outreach to maximize gap closure potential. These tailored digital Engagement Solutions implement an equity-minded approach to close health gaps for groups that have been historically excluded, exploited, and marginalized, and ultimately promote a fair and just opportunity for everyone to reach their optimal health. 

To learn more about using digital engagement to build more equitable health data, register for Activate2023: Designing Customer Journeys for Health Equity.

People of mPulse: SriVani Ganti, Director of Health Equity

SriVani Ganti brings a unique perspective to member engagement as Director of Health Equity at mPulse and feels that she and her team play a critical role in making people feel seen.

“For me, when I think about health equity, it’s really personal. As the daughter of immigrants, as a woman of color, I have witnessed systemic racism not just in terms of looks but also in terms of all the assumptions that have been made historically,” she says.

Working hard to address that imbalance and treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve, SriVani feels that mPulse’s solutions are changing the landscape of member engagement. “We have this really cool technology that lets everyone’s experience be bespoke to them, and we can do it in a scalable way. Everyone comes with different perspectives, backgrounds, and narratives, and that means we need different approaches to achieve the same outcomes for each of them.”

Bridging the gap

Having done her Bachelor of Science in Biology through Northeastern University thinking she might become a doctor or a researcher, SriVani realized that neither were for her and went on to achieve her Masters in Health Communication through Boston University.

Having always been her family’s ‘translator’, demystifying what was presented to them when it came to ‘doctor speak’, today, SriVani continues to do just that for millions of people around the country.

With considerable experience in digital engagement, member experience, and health communications through text messaging, interactive voice response, emails and nanosites, SriVani has been focused on these modalities since she joined HealthCrowd in 2016 which later merged with mPulse in 2021. Prior to her time at HealthCrowd, SriVani worked in a few different industries including as a counterintelligence government contractor and Membership Director at a non-profit.

As a result, SriVani understands that delivering the right content to the right people at the right time, and through the right channels is critical when it comes to health equity, and she challenges her team to find new and innovative ways to reach diverse member population groups all the time. 

“My philosophy, when it comes to health equity, is to design for everyone on the margin. Because when we design for them, we include everyone in the middle,” she says. “This inevitably benefits society as a whole,” she adds, citing closed captioning subtitles as an example.

Dedicated to creating the ideal member experience, SriVani describes the Engagement Team as a small but mighty group of individuals, who each bring valuable experience from their different backgrounds, such as public health, behavioral science, health equity, and learning experience to create engaging moments of education that motivate people to take action. This not only helps health plans close important healthcare gaps, but it also educates and empowers members in a more sustainable way.

In fact, during her time at mPulse, the team has worked on a number of fascinating projects including surveys that uncover social needs such as housing, food insecurity, and financial and job instability. Based on these and other insights, they’ve developed a range of solutions focused on improving health equity, such as pregnancy solutions that target and educate Black mothers who experience some of the highest mortality rates in the country, or diabetes management campaigns for Latino populations that provide culturally relevant dietary tips and acknowledge cultural beliefs on how to treat the condition. Additionally, they have created programs in over 13 languages to help improve individual health literacy, which have seen extremely positive results with members seeking out important social services and closing healthcare gaps.

Trusted advisors

As a result, SriVani says she’s proud that, as a team, they’ve become more than a vendor to their customers, they’ve become trusted advisors.

In fact, having attended and chaired the BRI Network SDOH (Social Determinants of Health) Summit earlier this year, SriVani used the opportunity to connect with the industry and really dig into what our customers and their members are struggling with.

“A big part of what drives your personal health outcomes is actually what’s happening around you. It’s not just your access to primary care providers or urgent care, it’s things like financial stability, access to quality education, even the quality of the neighborhood you live in,” explains SriVani, who went on to add that conversations she had sparked all sorts of ideas for what we can do and how can we do it better.  

“The benefit of the mPulse Mobile technology is that we can get messages out there at a wide scale, but more than that, we can make them super personalized to the individual receiving them,” says SriVani, who explains that she and her team are working on a health equity playbook and how to be more inclusive in their marketing.

“The thing with health equity is that you always have to be considering different perspectives. No one should receive the exact same message. Every message should be tweaked based on the person’s background, health, cultural background and more,” says SriVani.

SriVani with her husband, Aditya.

Giving Back

It’s clear that a different perspective is exactly what SriVani brings to the table, as she works to create genuine moments of connection in everything she turns her hand to. Fortunate to enjoy a natural synergy day between her personal passion projects and her day job, SriVani is doing what she loves every day.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, SriVani is now based in Maryland, and credits her parents for shaping the way she sees the world. Growing up watching them give back to those around them, she’s inspired to make a difference in her own way. “I like giving back. I think it goes back to kindness, and if we have more kindness in this world things can only be better,” she says with humility.

A veritable powerhouse, SriVani is proof that dynamite comes in small packages. Aside from volunteering with a local spiritual organization, she co-founded a Hindu environmental organization, is the Director of Communications for a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating maternal and infant mortality rates in India, and is also the co-founder of a South Asian Publishing house, focused on putting out children’s literature featuring children of color.

“Every child deserves to be the hero of a story because if you don’t see yourself, then you don’t believe you can do it,” explains SriVani, eloquently summing up her beliefs when it comes to health equity too.

 

Health Equity, Part 1: How Can Digital Engagement and Conversational AI Promote Health Equity?

When COVID-19 overwhelmed our nation’s healthcare system, a stark reality emerged: health inequity. As people of color experienced a disproportionately high burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths, highlighting a gap in our system, the topic of health equity surfaced across public health agencies, policy makers, healthcare systems and providers, and employers alike, and the possibility of digital health solutions bridging these gaps and make quality healthcare more accessible came to the forefront. 

To promote health equity, it is vital to begin with a universal definition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines health equity as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain the highest level of health.” Achieving this aspiration requires uplifting communities that have been minoritized and excluded and promoting affordability and accessibility to quality healthcare and other social services. First, let’s start by looking at equity and how it is different from equality.

Equality vs. Equity: The Road is Long 

While these terms may sound similar, equality and equity are not synonymous! Creating equitable solutions over equal solutions has the profound impact to uplift marginalized populations. 

Imagine that you must go five miles down the road. In an equal society, everyone who needed to travel this distance would be given the same bicycle. What determines who makes it down the road and who makes it quickest?

  • Personal conditions, such as their biking skills, what they are carrying, and whether they have the ability to pedal with their feet.
  • Circumstances of the environment such as whether the road is bumpy, inclined, or flat.

In an equal society, while everyone may have a bicycle, they are not truly equipped with the resources they need to succeed

In contrast, in an equitable society, everyone is set up to reach the end of the five miles at the same exact time, regardless of conditions. In a scenario of equity, each person has a bicycle that has been developed for their unique needs, such as a motorized vehicle for wheelchair users or a bicycle with more traction to endure the bumpy roads.

Visualizing Health Equity: One Size Does Not Fit All Infographic
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2022

When it comes to healthcare, the same logic follows: a uniform approach will not work across populations. True health equity will require providing each member with the tools they need to overcome barriers and ultimately achieve their highest level of health. There are a few key digital engagement strategies that can be especially effective in addressing health inequities among member populations. 

Streaming Health Content

diabetes eye exam streaming health content in SpanishHealth illiteracy is one of the biggest barriers to equitable healthcare, and in response, streaming health content is an effective method for health literacy promotion. It borrows from the best of digital content strategy, behavioral science, and instructional design to create powerful learning experiences to address health literacy barriers in a consumer-friendly format and to encourage hard to reach members to take control of their health outcomes. Instead of telling people what they need to do, we are educating them on why it’s important, which serves to develop intrinsic motivation to get care and take healthy actions. Everyone has the knowledge needed and everyone can make health decisions with all the information available.

Interested in learning more about our approach to health literacy? Register for Activate2023: Designing Customer Journeys for Health Equity »

Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding

With the use of artificial intelligence, conversations can be programmed to understand responses in any language and intelligently respond in that same language. It can also allow plans to respond automatically to barriers created by inequitable circumstances, such as transportation, cost, or health literacy issues. Then it can provide real time solutions to move the member forward toward the desired action. This serves to create more equitable health experiences for those members who aren’t starting on a level playing field.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) 

Research shows SDoH have a greater impact on health and well-being than medical care. This is because where a person lives, learns, works, and plays can affect their health in many ways. There are many non-medical factors that affect health and wellness:

  • Economic Stability: employment, income, expenses, debt, medical bills, and support 
  • Physical Environment: housing, transportation, safety, parks, playgrounds, walkability Education: literacy, language, vocational training, pre-schools, higher education 
  • Food: hunger, access to healthy, affordable options 
  • Community: social support systems, community engagement, discrimination, stress 
  • Healthcare System: health coverage, provider access, provider cultural competency, quality of care

These factors commonly overlap to affect health outcomes (health status, mortality, and morbidity).

Technology can bridge the gap created by SDoH. At mPulse mobile, we believe SDoH can be addressed directly using disaggregated data, which ensures representation of marginalized populations. We created a proprietary SDoH Index which leverages a weighting system to maximize its predictive ability. Factors such as food insecurity, transportation access, neighborhood, and environment are taken into account for each individual member to provide a more tailored, relevant, and empathetic conversation.

Bridging Gaps: Our Commitment to Equitable Health

Digital interventions can also be a powerful tool to bring communities together during a crisis (such as quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic), spread education, send interventions in multiple languages, and find different ways to get people the resources they need.

The digital platform can be used to spread health education in engaging ways (e.g. videos, courses), utilizes behavior science to break down fears and misinformation, and uses a multicultural lens to provide multiple languages and ensure cultural sensitivity. Together, this technology can bridge inequities early on, and in turn, can help mitigate preventable, deadly health consequences. 

Ultimately, we aim to close gaps in care and eliminate preventable health disparities by integrating health equity competencies across all of our work, and allow all people a fair and just opportunity for the highest level of health.

To learn more about the impact digital engagement can have on health equity, register for Activate2023: Designing Customer Journeys for Health Equity.

Delivering Equitable Health Experiences Among Medicaid Populations

Earlier this month, four of mPulse Mobile’s best and brightest subject matter experts packed up and headed to sunny Florida to attend The Strategic Solution Network’s (SSN) 14th Annual Medicaid Innovations Forum. A huge topic of conversation was, not surprisingly, the FCC’s Declaratory Ruling on phone outreach for redetermination. Released in late January, this ruling opened the door for plans to utilize texting in their efforts to maintain coverage for millions of Medicaid members. 

Texting, however, has always been a big topic of conversation for us. 97% of US adults own a cell phone, and it seems everywhere you go people are glued to their devices. That is what makes SMS texting such an incredibly effective tool to add into your mix of channels. We spoke about just that during our session at the conference. 

Healthcare Experiences Powered by Technology

For that session, Reva Sheehan, mPulse Mobile’s Senior Director of Customer Insights, had the opportunity to present onstage with Sammie Turner, Quality HEDIS Manager for Maryland Physician’s Care. Maryland Physicians Care, a customer of mPulse Mobile and the third largest Managed Care Organization in the state of Maryland, administers healthcare services to Maryland’s HealthChoice enrollees. 

Maryland Physicians Care and mPulse partnered together to deploy a two-way SMS text campaign targeting multiple preventative care screenings, including Breast Cancer Screenings, Well-Child Visits, SSI, and Lead Screening in Children, and we delivered the results of that program to the audience.  

With reach rates ranging from 83% to 95%, we were able to target and communicate with thousands of their customers. The main metric we wanted to observe, however, was the success of texting compared to outbound calls. Is texting a more effective method of outreach to obtain scheduled appointments?

We focused on breast cancer screenings and found strong evidence that it was. After 30 days of outbound calls, 123 breast cancer screenings were scheduled. But with the texting program, we found that we were able to schedule 94 screenings in just four days.  

The texting program was able to get 76% of the screenings scheduled that outbound calling did in just a fraction of the amount of time and did so without the manual work of call center representatives. 

But why is this so? How is texting, which may seem less personal, able to have so much success so quickly?

Three Core Capabilities for Texting Outreach

Texting allows us to reach a large population in a single event and assists in reducing the volume of outbound calls and or letters. If you have the right technology powering your texting program, however, it turns into more than just a text but into a dynamic two-way conversation that can be used to connect with a member, break down barriers to healthcare, and deliver better outcomes.  

There are three core components that enabled this experience for Maryland Physicians Care’s members: two-way text capabilities, natural language understanding, and educational content. 

Two-way Conversations Identify and Address Barriers to Care 

When you have dynamic, interactive conversations with your members, you truly address the barriers they face when trying to get care. Lack of transportation, inability to get time off work, cost, and other factors all play a role in creating an inequitable health experience.

When a plan has the technology to have a real conversation with its members at scale, it can not only identify the reasons members aren’t scheduling screenings, but it can take it a step further to provide solutions and education for the member, such as helping them find a doctor like you see in the example below from Maryland Physicians Care’s program. When the door for care is opened a bit wider for one person, it makes the healthcare system a little bit more equitable for all.

Interested in these capabilities? Learn how these same concepts can be applied to outreach around the end of continuous enrollment » 

Natural Language Understanding and Culturally Appropriate Content 

Natural Language Understanding (NLU), a type of artificial intelligence, is the ability for our system to interpret the responses from the member (even if they are non-standard responses or slang) and respond back in an intelligent manner. mPule Mobile’s NLU is available in 7 languages with translation services for 13.  

One example of NLU in Maryland Physicians Care’s program focuses on creating a more culturally sensitive experience. For this program, the two-way SMS content automatically converted from English to Spanish if the member responded in Spanish. Their language preferences were then reported back to the plan for future interactions. The ability to communicate with your health plan in the language that you are most comfortable with makes it much more likely that they’ll keep communicating and take the desired action.

Leveraging Educational Content to Promote Health Literacy 

One thing we all know is how vital health literacy is to the concept of health equity. The ability to understand not only the care system, but your own body and healthcare needs is critical.  

Videos can leverage educational content to help overcome barriers and inspire action by delivering bite-sized stories and entertainment straight to the member’s phone during a text exchange. The below example was used for a diabetes eye exam program run with a large national health plan. There was a 274% increase in link clicks to scheduling when this video was used in the text outreach vs when it wasn’t.

Equitable Healthcare for All 

The dynamic conversational engagement used by Maryland Physicians Care enabled them to reach more members and deliver tailored resources and calls-to-action to empower members to act and deliver better outcomes at scale. When each member has the opportunity for a personalized and relevant conversation about their health with their plan, they’re receiving a more equitable experience.  

Interested in these capabilities for a redetermination program? Learn how these same concepts can be applied to outreach around the end of continuous enrollment!