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Key Takeaways from the 6th Annual Star Ratings and Quality Assurance Summit

mPulse Mobile’s Government Programs Strategic Market Executive, Reva Sheehan, had the opportunity to discuss Member Engagement, Now and Post Pandemic, at the 6th annual Star Ratings and Quality Assurance Summit alongside Noreen Hurley, from Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, and Bill Gaynor, from Change Healthcare on Wednesday December 2nd. During their discussion they reflected on how plans engaged their members at the early stages of the pandemic, but also what worked well and what is here to stay as we move into 2021.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Member Engagement and How It Changed Some Processes for the Better:

The pandemic highlighted many longstanding member engagement challenges and created new ones. Health plans had to think about services and resources that were impacted and how to communicate with their members as quickly as possible. An omnichannel approach was crucial in deploying messaging for many health plans that needed to reassure and inform members quickly. Information regarding COVID, CMS changes that affected members access to care, telehealth services, and impacted resources and  programs were all vital pieces of information that members welcomed and appreciated. Plans relied heavily on the communication channels and strategies they knew their members would engage with, and adapted as the situation and member engagement levels evolved. As we look forward to 2021, plans will need to continue to double down on the channels their members respond to at scale so they are able to meet the challenges of the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using Data and Internal Agility to Adapt to Member Needs

One of the panelists Noreen Hurley, from Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, shared how the situation at the beginning of COVID-19 forced their team to look inwardly at their own operations. “Urgency drove us to some internal coordination and to look inside our own organization and find what resources, what technology, we can use…to smash through the silos and reach as many people as we can quickly.” At mPulse, a major concern for our customers centered on getting member feedback and data quickly, to make better decisions in an evolving situation. Collecting engagement data, member responses to outreach, and analyzing member sentiment and intent all helped get actionable feedback to plans that were trying to understand how best to reach at-risk or underserved populations.

Noreen also noted that plans had to constantly monitor their engagment efforts and change strategies quickly. In mPulse’s case, we had deployed our COVID Rapid Rollout toolkit but still had to adapt as programs launched as stay-at-home orders extended beyond the original three-week timeline. We also experienced a higher need for social isolation education solutions which addressed the need to stay active, as well as resources for easily accessible healthcare options. mPulse deployed several solutions to address what we thought would be the need for COVID-19 related challenges and needed to pivot quickly when some solutions become more important than others.

Member Engagement Will Become Personal

A number of factors are converging to shift member communications further away from a one-size-fits-all strategy for Medicare plans. The emphasis on CAHPS as part of Stars going forward means that every member touchpoint, no matter how transactional, needs to be assessed through the lens of member experience.  Just as there is no copy-and-paste solution for gaps in care or med adherence, plans will have to think about what will work best for their specific member population when it comes to experience-focused engagement. No matter what population you’re looking at, personalizing content to make it relevant and useful to the individual member is always important. Technology is helping plans to pull in real-time data on experiences and sentiment and member interactions with providers, pharmacies, member services, etc and build a better picture of what their happy and dissatisfied members look like. This allows them to tailor content and align resources where they can make the most potential impact.

Placing members in context is vital in ways that go beyond CAHPS scores. For example, even with the newly added accessibility to telehealth, many members still faced language and technology resource barriers that made it nearly ineffective for hard-to-reach members to manage their care virtually. A generic “sign up for our telehealth portal” email or text message would have resulted in frustration or inaction for those members. So gathering those barriers up front via conversational outreach, and tailoring follow-up with education and support resources to help overcome them was crucial for many of mPulse’s clients’ telehealth success in 2020.

A Vaccine and 2021 is Right Around the Corner. What will Plans do Differently to Improve Member Engagement?

Aside from OEP and the more-normal member engagement strategy that plans will be rolling out next month, plans face the challenges of vaccine communication and navigating another Stars Measurement Year that will be impacted by the pandemic.

A vaccine will take time to distribute to the general public and the lines will be long when it gets here. Plans will need to focus on continuing education around the fallout of the pandemic, vaccine distributions, and what regulatory changes will mean to member’s health management. Educating members swiftly and timely must remain a permanent change within the industry. Using data and insights about what worked and what did not during 2020 will become necessary when planning future communications. So will having tools readily available to collect new data and adapt as the vaccination effort continues. Plans need to show members that their health plan is listening, concerned with keeping them healthy, and ready to address whatever the new year presents.

One key strategy we’ve seen throughout COVID-related outreach is the success of quick, actionable touchpoints with members, supported by richer educational materials when necessary. mPulse is already adopting this strategy for communication about vaccines and the FAQs that will be vital to driving vaccine uptake in large populations. We use data and member responses to tailor content to different personas – from “ready and willing” members who just need to know when and where to go get vaccinated, to “unsure and uneasy” members who need more information from authority figures and richer content to help drive them to act. We think this approach is vital, as polls continue to show a very divided population when it comes to attitudes around the vaccine heading into January.


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