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Inland Empire Health Plan Receives The First Approval for Text Messaging Engagement for Medi-Cal Members: Our Top Takeaways

The entire team at mPulse Mobile was thrilled to learn that our long-time partner Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) was the first Medi-Cal Plan to receive approval to continue its text messaging program through the new process established by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS). This news means that IEHP will continue to engage their 1.2 million Medi-Cal members through text messaging, connecting them to their benefits and services and starting important conversations about their health. With the rest of the Medi-Cal plans and wider Medicaid community watching these new developments, I wanted to offer my key takeaways:

1. This news is a literal conversation starter: Medi-Cal members can connect with their plans about their health in a meaningful way

Healthcare can be complex and challenging for many people to navigate. People have unique challenges and needs, but all too often they get one-way, one-size-fits-all communication that isn’t tailored to them. A single mother with diabetes whose first language is Spanish will have needs for herself and her family that deserve and demand to be addressed differently than those of a 40-year-old man who faces housing and food insecurity and prefers to text in English.

This is why DHCS’s approval is so important: it empowers plans to engage these members at scale through conversations. Texting is inherently conversational. Unlike do-not-reply emails, postcards, prerecorded phone calls, apps, and web portals that healthcare consumers routinely ignore, text messaging is how they keep in touch with friends and have conversations with family using plain language (and sometimes emojis). It’s their natural preference.

When plans reach out to a member in a tailored way that takes into account their individual needs, preferences, and challenges, it creates an opportunity to both accomplish vital goals like closing care gaps and improving access to care and awareness of services while transforming the member’s relationship with the plan.

95% of Medi-Cal eligible adults own cell phones and use them to text. We have seen repeatedly in our work with Medicaid plans across the country how eager members are to engage in a dialogue with plans via text. They want to do things like learn where to get care, understand their benefits, or get help choosing a doctor. They want to know what kinds of help is out there for managing a chronic condition or where they can pick up a new prescription. The moves from DHCS empower those conversations to happen more often and in the channel that members prefer.

2. Meeting members where they are: Medi-Cal Plans now have a tremendous opportunity to activate their hard-to-reach membersThe desire for meaningful dialogue in healthcare runs two ways: just as consumers need personal and relevant information, plans must promote awareness of key benefits and services, close gaps in care, and promote healthy behaviors in their populations. This can be an especially tough challenge in Medicaid where health literacy and self-efficacy can vary widely, members are more likely to change addresses and they face deeper impacts from social determinants. This range of factors leaves Medicaid populations often regarded as the most difficult to engage in healthcare.

The unmatched adoption of text messaging is a great starting point to reach traditionally hard-to-engage members. When plans tailor their outreach to account for an individual’s specific socio-economic, cultural, psychographic, and health situation, they can bridge gaps between each member and plan resources in a scalable way. That’s how we see plans orchestrating automated text engagement over 40 different health and services topics to large, diverse Medicaid populations – by treating them as individuals and embracing the opportunity to treat each text conversation with them as a unique chance to promote healthy behavior change. And they see great results in driving those changes beyond what had previously been possible through one-way traditional outreach methods.

By lighting a clear path to compliant and interactive text programs, DHCS enabled plans to meet members where they are and deliver on the promise of a more meaningful and personal engagement approach.

3. California’s new text program approval process should be a model for plans in other states

The new program approval process was created by DHCS after consulting with Medi-Cal plans to ensure that text message programs meet the state’s requirements around privacy, cost control, and legal compliance while promoting a positive member experience. mPulse closely collaborated with IEHP to ensure DHCS had accurate and complete information on opt-in approaches, data security, key use cases, and message content and frequency best practices. We were very encouraged to see that the resulting process and approval form allows plans to maximize both the impact and reach of text programs while ensuring that rigorous compliance standards are being met. I hope to see other states take a similar approach to welcoming impactful and compliant text messaging for Medicaid through a similarly clear and thorough process.

4. IEHP and other Medi-Cal Plans can continue to lead the way in innovative engagement that drives real health outcomes

Our home state of California is so often thought of as a model of innovation. When it comes to Medicaid engagement, this news demonstrates why we have that reputation. We are so proud of the success we have had over the years with IEHP in finding new ways to create meaningful touchpoints with Medi-Cal members. IEHP’s solution with mPulse connects members to important services and benefits, improves access to care, and gathers important insights by empowering members to have convenient and relevant conversations with their plan. In continuing our work together, we anticipate driving even better outcomes and valuable member experiences than those recorded in our early case study.

Our shared excitement to improve and extend the important work we do together is evident, and I am looking forward to seeing how our partnership will continue to find opportunities to deliver a better experience and health outcomes for IEHP’s members. Further, we are working closely with our other Medi-Cal Plan partners and new customers that are exploring text messaging for the first time or looking to improve 1-way programs to design engaging and fully-compliant programs to gain approval from DHCS in the near future.


mPulse Mobile supports Medicaid plans in California and over a dozen states engage and activate over 10 million members to drive healthy behavior change. To start a conversation about how we can help with the DHCS approval process, or to learn more about our solutions, please contact us.

Chris Nicholson is the co-founder and CEO of mPulse Mobile.


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