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Improving Maternal Health Outcomes with Digital Trends

Despite having a highly advanced healthcare system, the U.S. faces a concerning reality as it records the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths among developed countries. Alarmingly, the maternal mortality rate surged by 40% in 2021 compared to the previous year. While part of this increase can be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to note that maternal mortality rates were already on an upward trend even before the pandemic struck.

Up to 60% of pregnancy-related deaths and adverse maternal health disparities in the U.S. can be prevented by

Proper preventive and continuity of both prenatal and postpartum care are imperative, and health organizations play a foundational role in improving maternal health disparities for our nation.

In an era where technology is pivotal in improving maternal healthcare outcomes, conversational AI in healthcare emerges as a key player. As the U.S. grapples with rising maternal mortality rates, integrating advanced conversational AI into healthcare strategies offers hope. This innovative technology can significantly improve maternal health outcomes by providing timely, personalized, accessible support to expectant and new mothers.

Our conversational AI solutions are designed to bridge the gaps in maternal healthcare inequalities, offering tailored guidance and vital information that can make a real difference in the lives of women during their pregnancy and postpartum journey.

In this article, we explore the transformative potential of conversational AI in improving maternal health disparities and reducing the alarming rates of pregnancy-related complications in the U.S.

The role of healthcare communication technology

Organizations continually lean on digital trends in an increasingly technology-driven world to drive growth and business efficiencies. 97% of U.S. adults own a mobile phone, and with generative AI platforms such as ChatGTP and social media AI photo filters becoming mainstream, we’re beginning to see the power and potential of healthcare communication technology.

But how does this tie into health organizations and maternal health? 

A lot more than you may think. mPulse Mobile has harnessed innovative technology and digital trends and applied them to the healthcare landscape to educate and empower health consumers to take action. We continually deliver best-in-class health outcomes by borrowing inspiration from the world’s most innovative digital trends. We create highly relevant and engaging digital health solutions experiences through:

  • Technology’s leading trends,
  • in-house learning and design experts, and
  • access to rich data and population insights

Our solution to prenatal and postpartum care leverages this expertise. It tackles the challenges associated with our nation’s poor maternal health outcomes, opening doors to accessibility, catering to care preferences, and building knowledge.

Maximizing mobile outreach with conversational AI to enhance maternal healthcare accessibility

conversational ai example for maternal health resourcesWe know 97% of American adults own a mobile phone, so leveraging this communication channel to reach more consumers is a great place to start. Scaling this resource requires automation, and to avoid abrasion, we lean on conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to direct consumers to the right tools and resources.

Step-by-Step Process to Enhance Maternal Healthcare Accessibility:

  1. Identify Nearby ObGyns and Clinics: Automatically send pregnant members a list of the closest ObGyns and clinics based on their residential location.
  2. Provide Easy Scheduling Options: Include a phone number for members to call and schedule their appointments easily.
  3. Recognize and Respond to Barriers: Utilize Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to detect if a member mentions a lack of access to reliable transportation.
  4. Offer Solutions for Transportation Barriers: In cases where transportation issues are identified, automatically respond with information about available resources that offer low or no-cost transportation options.
  5. Simplify Appointment Setting: Ensure the entire process, from providing information to addressing barriers, is streamlined to facilitate quick and easy appointment scheduling for members.

Addressing maternal health disparities with culturally competent and personalized solutions

conversational ai example relevant and relatable

The disparities in maternal health outcomes and the lack of representation and consideration for consumers who are disadvantaged by our health system are undoubtable and require prioritization. mPulse Mobile is committed to helping reduce maternal health disparities and inequalities by designing our programs to be relevant, relatable and address the needs and preferences of diverse communities.

Our pregnancy solution is culturally competent, with multilingual messaging, NLU tailoring, and inclusive replies and opt-outs (miscarriage opt-out, not saying “pregnant women”). For SDoH-level data, we factor in zip codes to deliver relevant resource links and inclusive visual and streaming content representation. To create a personalized and relevant experience throughout, the member’s due date is used to provide timely information, and custom keys (name, provider name, etc.) further enhance personalization.

How we leverage digital trends for enhanced maternal health education

Information sharing and access to the news today are more broadly available thanks to smart devices and the internet. With Americans spending an average of 1,300 hours each year on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, it’s critical to derive inspiration from these platforms to maximize engagement and remove friction.

More than 50% of expectant Americans download and use pregnancy-related apps for educational resources and pregnancy-related updates. Health organizations are perfectly positioned to harness these trends and provide a frictionless experience to expectant consumers to engage and deliver the right education and resources, close care gaps, and gather rich population insights.

mPulse Mobile’s prenatal and postpartum solution uses a combination of expert-led videos from Dr. Christine Noa Sterling, board-certified ObGyn, interactive modules, and short stories and animations to educate and empower members around key milestones related to their and their baby’s health.

Content is sent via SMS at key moments based on each consumer’s due date, encouraging them to schedule routine appointments and make healthier choices.

Our in-house behavioral scientists and instructional strategists leverage learning theory and high-quality cinematography and animation to produce content designed to drive action. See for yourself.

Overview of mPulse Mobile’s prenatal and postpartum solution

mPulse’s prenatal and postpartum solution

mPulse Mobile’s pregnancy solution is a 12+ month interactive SMS program designed to improve quality performance and deliver better health outcomes.

The solution specifically targets multiple HEDIS® measures and is proven to engage and deliver outcomes such as a 2X engagement rate with maternity care management services, a 7.1pp increase in the prenatal and postpartum care measure (PPC) owned by NCQA, and 61% engagement across 400,000 Medicaid members. By incorporating our behavior change methodology throughout all conversations and streaming content, our comprehensive approach broadens access, caters to individual preferences, and educates to improve health outcomes at scale.

Improving the Patient Experience: Solving the Top Four Healthcare Challenges 

Patients are currently going through a transformation in the healthcare system. They are less like the patients we’ve always known them to be and are starting to act more like consumers. And what is the primary trait of a consumer? Choice.

Patients today are fully fledged, active participants in their own healthcare and are making choices between different services and providers the way they make choices between brands. This changing dynamic requires that the healthcare system makes that shift right along with them. The goal of physicians, health systems, and accountable care organizations should be to ensure the patient’s experience is personalized, relevant, and on par with what they have come to expect from consumer experiences in all areas of their life. There are, however, some common challenges that we see healthcare organizations grappling with while moving toward this new normal, which can only be solved with the right mix of expertise and technology. But they can be solved for—with the result being a more valuable patient experience and relationship.

HealthCare is Challenging 

It is. And these challenges are pervasive across many organizations we work with. We’re talking about gaps in Data, Technology Capabilities, Engagement Strategy, and Organizational Alignment. 

Let’s dive into each one.

Data Gaps 

Do you have the right cell phone number? Do you know if the number you have is even for a cell phone? Is it a land line instead? Do you have the correct contact preferences? Do you have information on their social determinants of health (SDoH) and the barriers to care they’re facing? This data can make all the difference when outreaching to patients and attempting to drive them to a specific action. How can you reach out to someone if you don’t have the right number? How can you affect someone’s behavior if you don’t understand their circumstances?

Solving for Data Gaps 

In all aspects of your outreach, you need to be data driven. This starts with the ability to collect and harness your data. An SDoH Index like mPulse Mobile has is the kind of data that allows you to tailor conversations to a person’s circumstances. Specific capabilities, such as two-way automated conversations, allows us to understand what people are doing and why they’re doing it. By being able to ask people directly and receive an answer, we can take that information, record it as data, and do analysis on it to identify trends. The most valuable insights you can have will come directly from your patients themselves. Of course, this can only be done at scale with the right technology.

Technology Capability Gaps 

Having all the data in the world is little help if you don’t have the technology to use it at scale. You might be deploying one way messaging programs, which means you aren’t collecting information back from your patients to help personalize the conversation and further improve your interactions with themand forget trying to do this on a 1:1 basis without the ability for your technology to automate these conversations.

Solving for Technology Capability Gaps 

Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding are two important foundational capabilities that can help close this gap. Conversational AI ensures you can tailor your conversation to the individual you’re speaking with, making it more likely you’ll connect with them and drive the desired action. With National language understanding, we can communicate with patients in a way that feels familiar, conversational, and natural. You get at the intent of what your patient is saying and account for humanness (such as typos or slang). At mPulse, we have linguists and computer programmers on staff who work together to come up with scripting that can interpret different combinations of languages, typos, and slang to get to the intention.

Gaps in Engagement Strategy 

Maybe you do have the means to connect with your patients with two-way automated conversations. But are you saying the right things? Are your engagements tailored and optimized to ensure maximum outcomes? How often are you messaging? What’s the tone? Do you have a team dedicated to refining all these different aspects of your strategy?

Solving for Gaps in Engagement Strategy

When you understand how people think and make decisions, you can craft your outreach in a way that predicts their response and uses that prediction to nudge them in the direction you’d like. This is the reasoning behind the behavioral science techniques we bake into our solutions. Humans are fairly predictable, and we mostly react the same. Let’s use that predictability to push them toward healthy behaviors! Many behavioral science techniques are used to build our programs: cognitive overload could determine the pacing of our program; authority bias may dictate who we have giving the information; and storytelling effect could dictations how we give the information;

Don’t know what these behavioral science techniques are? Watch our on-demand behavioral science webinar series to learn how they can transform your engagement strategy! »

Gaps in Organizational Alignment 

Your patient has gotten your messaging, they’ve made the appointment. Now, are you guiding them through transition of care in the most effective way possible? For example, ensuring they’re scheduling an appointment with a PCP after an ER visit.

Solving for Gaps in Organizational Alignment 

The goal is to produce trust-building patient experiences consistent across the entire experience with a brand. For this, we have enterprise engagement, which allows us to handle the scale necessary for organizations which can have 100,000+ patients.

We need experiences consistent across that member base while also personalized to match each individual’s needs. That’s a tall order. And this comes back full circle to data and technologyboth are needed to ensure this patient experience is protected.

The New Normal

Digital trends are changing the game. Patient expectations are changing the game. The choices they have and the experiences in everyday life they’ve grown used to are creating new rules of the road in healthcare. As it should. We have technology in the market today that allows these experiences to be exceptional, so why should they (and we) settle for anything less? 

How to Address Changes in Patient Engagement and Motivate Flu Vaccination Fulfillment

Flu season is coming back around, and in a post-COVID world, that means changes in how members engage when it comes to being vaccinated. Lingering perspectives related to vaccine hesitancy may influence members’ reluctance to be vaccinated for the flu despite vaccinations being even more critical to their continued health. Health plans, providers, and pharmacies will have to work harder this year to ensure their health consumers are vaccinated and protected against the flu than they have in years past.

In the 2022–23 flu season, vaccination coverage with ≥1 dose of flu vaccine was 57.4% among children 6 months through 17 years, similar to the 2021–22 flu season (57.8%), and flu vaccination coverage among adults ≥18 years was 46.9%, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points from the prior season (49.4%).

With the unpredictability of flu severity from season to season, outreach and patient engagement to provide information and identify resources for access to vaccinations is integral to a health plan’s ability to proactively communicate with diverse populations through targeted content.

Annually, unvaccinated individuals will cost the healthcare system over $10.4 billion and an additional $17.6 Billion in lost worker productivity.

Flu vaccine patient education can help to prevent:

  • 5 million flu-related illnesses
  • 7 million flu-associated medical visits
  • 105k flu-associated hospitalizations, and
  • 3k flu-associated deaths 

So, what can the healthcare industry do to combat this? With tools like behavioral science, interactive flu vaccine education, and conversational AI at their disposal, it’s possible to see significant increases in flu vaccination rates among members.

Let’s take a closer look at why.

The Foundation: Science of Human Behavior

Let’s start with the basics for any outreach program we run: behavioral science. In this mega-study conducted by The University of Pennsylvania and Walmart, 22 different behavioral science techniques were tested. These 22 varied techniques were embedded into messages delivered through SMS to over 650,000 Walmart pharmacy patients to determine which boosted vaccination rates the highest. Overall, including all these techniques increased flu vaccination rates by an average of 6.7% over a three-month follow-up period.

However, the endowment effect was the most effective technique, which encouraged patients to visit Walmart for a flu vaccine reserved specifically for them. By telling a person a particular flu shot is ‘reserved for you’ and already belongs to them, the vaccine becomes a tangible thing of value that they own. The Endowment Effect is an emotional bias to put a higher value on owned objects. This approach also uses the technique of Loss Aversion, a bias that makes us care nearly twice as much about avoiding loss than receiving an equivalent gain. In this case, if you don’t claim your flu shot, you’ll lose something you own.

We use behavioral science in every program we deploy for our clients, but this study specifically and the endowment effect itself was the basis with which we built our flu vaccination solution for the 2022-2023 flu season. What UPenn and Walmart didn’t have, though, was the following few factors that pushed our flu program beyond even this study.

Streaming flu vaccine patient education

With so much flu vaccine hesitancy in our post-COVID world, flu vaccine patient education about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations is a necessary step, and departing from the mundane pamphlets and brochures of the past by utilizing streaming health content is an extremely effective way to do this.

fotonovela to help improve flu vaccine patient education

The content we’ve produced for flu vaccine education is a series of fotonovelas, which are auto-forwarding image-based stories with a visual interface similar to the stories feature on Instagram. Fotonovelas are ultimately a health literacy tool, but at the same time, they make learning fun and easy (80% of learners on our platform report liking or loving the fotonovela content type).

In this specific flu fotonovela below, the characters featured resonate with diverse audiences, the storylines detailed transcend linguistic and cultural barriers to deliver essential information, and the tone provides empathy and support on the path toward the desired call to action. The best part is that health patients who view a Fotonovela are 72% more likely to get vaccinated.

2-Way conversations uncover barriers

Having 2-way conversations allows you to gather insights about your members that can inform future communication.

  • What is their sentiment toward the program and plan?
  • Why haven’t they been vaccinated?
  • Have they already been vaccinated, and we don’t know?

Knowing why they haven’t been vaccinated allows the plan to respond with education and resources to assist.

  • Do they need help figuring out where to go? Send them the information to their nearest pharmacy.
  • What about if they’re not sure they need a flu vaccination? Send them a Fotonovela to educate them!

Multiple channels, multiple languages

The UPenn and Walmart mega-study tested SMS messages, but why stop there? A large part of an effective engagement strategy is meeting members where they are. As such, our solution includes SMS, IVR, and email channels. Take the concept of meeting members where they are one step further, and you’ll get the ability to deploy this vaccination solution in both English and Spanish. This means reaching more of your population in the way they want to communicate.

Tackle flu early and effectively

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older, especially people at higher risk, should get a flu vaccine annually to reduce their risk of contracting seasonal flu, alleviate the severity of symptoms, and decrease the likelihood of experiencing major health complications if infected. The importance of each individual vaccinating against the flu needs to be communicated to members through targeted, succinct, and easily understandable materials delivered through channels to reach them where they are most apt to respond and be motivated to act. Studies have found that patients who are informed and effectively motivated are also more likely to adhere to their treatment recommendations.

Our flu vaccination solution

mPulse Mobile’s flu vaccination solution uses proven behavioral science, dynamic content, and an omnichannel approach to overcome common vaccine barriers and get more members vaccinated. With over 15M Flu vaccination touchpoints sent to Medicaid, Medicare, and Commercial members by mPulse in the last two years using its 2-way Natural Language Understanding platform, we have learned from millions of past vaccine conversations in both Spanish and English. We use behavioral science in a relatable and quick experience and employ Fotonovelas to empower members to act. We can help overcome common barriers and resistance by listening for vaccine readiness.

For more information on this flu vaccination solution and a live demo on how we can improve your flu vaccine patient education, register for our webinar, Double Your Vaccination Rates for Your Health Population.

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 >>

How Leading Payers, Providers, Pharmacies, and Population Health Organizations are Adapting to this Flu Season

America is about to experience a return to “normal” that won’t be as pleasant as the others we’re all hoping for. This fall, the push to get as many Americans vaccinated against influenza will, as usual, become the primary public health issue in the country. And since the average 20 million illnesses and 400K hospitalizations in mild flu season would hit our healthcare system at a time where capacity and focus must remain squarely on COVID-19, the stakes are higher than years past. 

This year bring new challenges and obstacle to vaccination that care organizations must work to understand and overcome. The typical assistance from vaccination pushes in schools, workplaces, houses of worship, and other community resources will be absent or reduced. The usual challenges of apathy from young/healthy members, concerns about getting the flu from the vaccine, health education gaps about vaccine safety and importance, and access and awareness barriers will return. But this year they are joined by new obstacles from misinformation about COVID risk from vaccination to worries about entering healthcare facilities. Each individual’s calculation on getting a vaccination will be different this year. The burden for healthcare organizations will extend beyond the typical awareness campaigns – we have to understand each person’s barriers to vaccination and help overcome them. 

Leading payers, providers, pharmacies, and population health organizations are already adapting their approach to encouraging vaccinations in their populations. Their strategy has shifted from reminding and nudging to educating and activating. New approaches to building health literacy and more engaging content types are already being used to address new and heightened obstacles preventing people from seeking vaccinations. Technology is also playing a powerful role in connecting specific and tailored content to the people that it will impact the mostmPulse’s partners have seen success in solutions that effectively identify and overcome barriers to medication adherence and gaps in care closure. Now they are leveraging our Conversational AI technology to do the same with new flu vaccination challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Understanding a person’s barriers to action is the first step to helping overcome them. Our approach at mPulse is straightforward: we start with a conversational reminder delivered across mobile channels, and we follow up with questions that either confirm vaccination or simply ask the person what is stopping them. We take answers they give – no transportation, the flu shot gave them the flu once, they aren’t going into doctors’ offices during a pandemic, the vaccine makes COVID worse – and process them in real time using Natural Language Understanding (NLU). We match the individual’s barriers with configurable content that the plan, provider, or other organization chooses to address that issue: safe rides to a clinic, fotonovelas on vaccine education, locations for drive-through vaccinations, whatever the organization needs to connect to the member with that specific challenge. The barrier assessment creates additional opportunities to educate members and drive action, while generating actionable, real-time insights about what is keeping your specific population from getting vaccinated. 

Getting some individuals barriers to vaccination does more than just help connect them to resources – we can use data and identified barriers to understand the broader population and align strategies to help them. When we compare identified barriers with key data like member age, location, engagement history, health status, demographics, preferred language and culture, we can help organizations begin building personas that likely share common barriers. This allows for tailored content even to members that do not engage at first or have been previously hard-to-reach by provider or payer outreach. So responses that identify barriers for a portion of members can help improve the vaccination outreach to the rest.  

Whether it’s using the mPulse solution or taking a more manual approach with live callers, a conversational strategy will be key this flu season. Simply reminding your population that it’s flu season and vaccines are important will not be enough. When a member or patient who might typically get vaccinated, but is hesitant this year, can express their worries and receive relevant follow-up, they feel heard and they are more likely to act. And a younger, healthier member who may skip flu shots normally may be much more aware of the importance of building community immunity this year, and just needs to know where to go. Tailoring content to them, based on what they tell us is stopping them, gives us the best chance to help. The task of getting people vaccinated against influenza is familiar, but this year’s new challenge of understanding how individuals are reacting to vaccination strategies during COVID s will require this kind of conversational approach. 

Digital Fotonovelas for Flu Engagement: A New Approach for a Unique Year

The 2020-21 flu season poses new challenges in addressing COVID-19 alongside traditional challenges driving flu vaccination. Flu season for most adults typically begins around November and plans push reminders to have members schedule their flu vaccination. However, with COVID-19 as an ongoing concern, healthcare experts are suggesting getting the flu shot as early as September 2020, to at least quell the brunt of one virus while trying to manage the other. In addition, members who take precautionary measures early-on will alleviate pressure on hospital systems that have been carrying the weight of COVID-19.

Organizations must enhance their flu engagement strategies to address new concerns and barriers to vaccination this year and educate members quickly on new topics. With the right tools, health plans can take a multi-angled approach to member outreach that will help address and overcome several barriers at once. mPulse has been working with our customers to roll out new content and technology to help handle the challenges of this flu season—read about our 2020-2021 Flu Engagement Solution here. The solution incorporates digital fotonovelas. These are typically a 6-frame comic-style story portrayed with lighthearted graphics, that deliver important content to across demographic segments at scale. The story-style graphic can deliver vital educational flu resources directly to members’ mobile devices, through SMS and link-to-web, using members’ preferred language. This tool has been used in key healthcare use cases in the past, (e.g., value of HPV vaccines and diabetes self-management) and has proven to be a complementary route of communication when utilized with a text messaging approach to member outreach.

mPulse Mobile first deployed fotonovelas as a bi-lingual visual tool during the onset of COVID-19 as a part of the COVID-19 Rapid Rollout Toolkit solutions. The goal was to adapt a traditional and effective style of print media into digital format delivered through SMS, to help overcome health literacy barriers during a time when the spread of healthcare information was urgent and needed to be disseminated quickly at scale. The 6-frame graphic style of communication, paired with a series of check-ins via SMS, helped our plan and provider partners build health literacy around social distancing, basic hand hygiene, and keeps multi-lingual populations informed with accessible and coordinated outreach via mobile channels. The goal of this capability was to successfully assess members’ health risk and respond through text dialogue and educational fotonovelas appropriate for each member’s situation, in their preferred language. We’ve seen that when matched with strategic member outreach, fotonovelas can be a tool that offers an access point to fill in gaps in knowledge that drive healthy behavioral change even during a time when many are hesitant to seek out healthcare in person.

Fotonovelas also present an opportunity to address individual-level barriers and inaccurate health beliefs related to COVID-19, and flu vaccines in general. They can help address education gaps surrounding available flu vaccination resources during the pandemic while promoting health literacy. Paired with text message dialogues, plans and providers are able to uncover new barriers that may have prevented members to seek flu vaccinations early and match members to follow up content, including fotonovelas, that addresses those specific challenges.

During the 2019-2020 flu season, mPulse powered over 15,000,000 flu vaccination touchpoints across Medicaid, Medicare and commercial plan populations. The solution achieved a 2x increase in recorded flu vaccination rates in a large Medicaid population*. This year, as the flu season approaches with the added layer of COVID-19, plans and providers will need to more agile and responsive than years before.

For that reason, fotonovelas have become one of the core capabilities in our Flu Vaccination Solution for 2020-21. Fotonovelas engage a range of core population groups, including key multicultural segments with configurable content and versioning that enables matching to specific personas and demographics that can be updated over time. They can be a touchpoint that alerts members of appointment reminders, vaccination site locations and educational services. But the most powerful aspect of this form of outreach is the ability to tailor content based on an understanding of members health beliefs, in members’ preferred language and through their preferred channel. By listening to member responses to automated text conversations and understanding what they need to hear in order to get vaccinated, health care organizations can gather insights and deliver tailored and engaging outreach at scale. Because the solution is available on SMS and Link-to-Web it has the ability to reach a wider population at scale, meeting members where they are, taking pressure off of the member to seek out information during the height of the pandemic and flu season.

In a year of “unprecedented situations” the 2020-21 flu season is yet another that will require healthcare to evolve its approach. The reach, engagement and rich content provided by our fotonovelas strategy is a natural fit for the unique challenges of this flu season. Healthcare organizations know they have to do more this year than a strategy of 1-way reminder outreach and reliance on employer, church, or school vaccination drives. By creating conversational touchpoints around flu vaccination and supporting members with differentiated and rich content, they can elevate their engagement strategy to support the populations they care for.

Managing Influenza in 2020: Cutting Through Pandemic Confusion

It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that flu season is just around the corner. Nor that it promises to be all the more challenging due to COVID-19. This season is also taking on a new urgency—as the potential for serious complications ramps up if patients contract flu and COVID-19 at once.

Flu season is tough to manage at the best of times. Developing effective vaccines is an educated guess that doesn’t always pan out. Further downstream, inherent skepticism among a large minority doesn’t help. Last year, almost 40% of adults (including 19% over 60) said they wouldn’t get a flu shot. Perceived side effects and lack of efficacy were major reasons cited.

Now, on top of these challenges, consumers are looking for answers to a host of new and sometimes complex questions. Answers that require an added measure of reassurance and explanation. Even the 60% who typically welcome vaccinations might not be a shoo-in this flu season. A flexible and adaptive approach to communications and education may be needed to persuade healthcare consumers.

This year a premium should be placed on personalized education. Consider avoiding or modifying purely prescriptive communication that could fail to capture unique concerns. A more discursive, interactive type may better address confusion and misconception, guiding customers to pragmatic resolutions that leave them pacified, satisfied and prepared.

What is one of the first concerns a provider might need to address (whether verbalized or not)? “Can I trust your advice?” This may sound odd at first glance, but it shouldn’t be dismissed when developing a flu engagement strategy. In the wake of COVID-19, it’s been widely reported that trust in healthcare has been damaged. This is already leaving its mark. Overall vaccination rates declined nationwide during the pandemic’s first wave.

Anticipating another top-of-mind question (Do I have flu or COVID-19?), CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo recently told Reuters, a news agency, that “If we can eliminate…people getting flu symptoms [by giving them flu shots] and [thereby prevent] their first reaction being ‘Is this the seasonal flu or is this COVID,’ it can take demand off of COVID-19 testing.” In addition to helping providers manage capacity by persuading customers to get inoculated against flu, this limits scope for “flu versus COVID” confusion. Especially among those most vulnerable to catching both viruses such as the elderly, immunocompromised, and those with respiratory conditions.

To complicate matters for all—consumers and providers alike—we’re expecting this flu season to be more aggressive than usual.  Manufacturers are ready to boost vaccine production by 20% above norms. For healthcare systems to avoid being overwhelmed, supply is not the only prerequisite. A premium should be placed on education to activate preventive-care behaviors and timely action by customers, such as persuading them to get a flu vaccination. Even giving a willing customer a flu shot, however, has potential complications this year. If they have symptoms like a temperature for example, their flu shot might need to be delayed pending COVID-19 evaluation. Be ready to answer: “Why can’t I get a flu shot if I have a temperature?—It’s never been an issue before.”

Also be prepared to address issues like “Do COVID precautions help with flu?” Evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that social distancing can help prevent flu transmission. Reinforcing this and other preventive behaviors could slow its spread. To gain compliance, however, you may need to counter “COVID fatigue.” This emerging state of mind expresses the sense that “enough’s enough.” It reflects an overwhelming need for some to return to normal life, and in the process dismiss health risks—perhaps flu among them. This mindset might be one reason COVID-19 has surged again recently, and why August 12th saw nearly 1,500 COVID-19 deaths—the most in a single day for three months.

Many other qualms and questions add to this flu season’s unique challenges. Some reflect the potential impact of a flu-COVID double whammy wave.  Considerations include whether infection with one makes getting the other more or less likely, or if they are more or less damaging if caught concurrently. And, whether you can have a natural immunity to flu or COVID-19 (from T Cells for example). Or even if the bad flu season predicted could edge out or tamp down COVID-19 (a phenomenon called viral interference). Whatever the question, be prepared with engagement strategies that offer the right answers, and route care accordingly.

The takeaway? During any flu season—this more than others—tailored education and agile communication is important. These can help customers make sense of a complex healthcare landscape and decide if they need to seek care. Good luck!

mPulse is pleased to help. Details of our Flu Engagement Solution may be found here.

Improving Patient Engagement in Pharmacy Operations Using Conversational AI

Leading healthcare organizations from payers to IDNs, PBMs, specialty pharmacies, and hubs have recognized traditional programs for patient engagement are proving ineffective. Mail, telephonic and even app-based tools are not how the modern consumer prefers to communicate. Many consumers have experience engaging with ChatBots and Conversational Agents through automated conversations, and they are demonstrating a preference for this dialogue-based approach. Engaging with companies through messaging conversations is convenient, self-service tools delivered this way are more efficient and communications are tailored and relevant. A recent large cross-industry study found that 69% of consumers consider chatbots the preferred way to engage with businesses for quick answers to simple questions. The shift to conversational approaches for engaging consumers is also aligned to the widespread adoption of mobile phones. Mobile phone ownership is at 90% or above across all key population segments, including lower-income adults and seniors over the age 65.

What does this shift in how consumers prefer to engage mean for pharmacies?

The pharmacy industry is adapting to the rapid increase in specialty medications. These therapies have more complex dosing regimens, a higher potential for side-effects and require closer patient monitoring as a result. The generally higher costs of these medications also make demonstrating improved health outcomes and value critical. To ensure patients are successful, pharmacies must provide high-touch clinical support and they have large teams of support staff based in call centers to check-in, follow-up and assist with patients. But this becomes challenging when consumers are much more reluctant to answer telephone calls. Which is why conversational texting represents a huge opportunity for specialty pharmacies who want to maintain their high-touch approach, deliver it efficiently at scale, and leverage a consumer-preferred channel.

Leading pharmacy organizations have identified this opportunity and are leveraging conversational text messaging approaches to:

  • Improve chronic condition medication refill rates by 14PPs
  • Increase the number of touchpoints during therapy dosing period by over 3x
  • Reduce the average call wait time from 8 minutes to 90 seconds by diverting calls to the text channel

Click here to learn more about these outcomes and how Conversational AI programs improve patient outcomes in the pharmacy space.

IDC names mPulse Mobile an Innovator in 2018 Digital Patient Engagement Report

One of the driving forces behind mPulse Mobile is bringing innovation to healthcare to improve outcomes. We are honored to be named an IDC innovator based on our AI-based mobile health engagement solutions and the results we deliver with over 70 healthcare organizations.

IDC Innovators Logo

Cynthia Burghard, research director of IDC Health Insights, highlighted some of the healthcare challenges mPulse Mobile is working to address as well as the value our solutions provide:

“The industry and, more importantly, patients have suffered under inconvenient access to healthcare; digital patient engagement is poised to change that by providing healthcare consumers access to both administrative and clinical support conveniently in a personalized and interactive dialogue when needed. IDC believes this will improve not only the patient experience but improve patient compliance to health management strategies and result in better health”

While mPulse’s solutions make an impact throughout the healthcare industry, IDC highlighted our success in engaging and activating the Medicaid population, which is traditionally very hard to reach. Burghard highlights her assessment of mPulse’s AI-based capabilities.

“Clients can scale their patient engagement strategy to a large number of patients using automated, dynamically personalized communication…With its strength in behavioral science, mPulse has been able to build hundreds of dialogues that are dynamically modified based on the patient’s condition and situation as well as patient data generated and gather during the mobile dialogue.”

To learn more, please see the full IDC Innovators report on mPulse Mobile here.

mPulse Mobile Partners with CityMD to Engage Patients on Their Path Back to Health Across Over 85 Urgent Care Centers

Scaling for growth, CityMD adds mPulse Mobile’s enterprise-grade, tailored text messaging capabilities to their patient engagement strategy to deliver a scalable and exceptional Aftercare patient experience.

LOS ANGELES, CA – April 18, 2018 – mPulse Mobile, the healthcare industry’s leading provider of mobile solutions for engaging and activating consumers, announced today that CityMD, the leading urgent care provider in the New York Metro Area, is leveraging their interactive text messaging capabilities to deliver high-reach Aftercare services, including referrals, pre-approvals, lab follow-ups and patient satisfaction surveys.

CityMD has grown by 43% over the past year organically and through their recently announced transactions to acquire STAT Health and First Med Immediate Medical Care. With this scale and the mission to provide an exceptional experience through high-quality medical care and convenient access, CityMD needed a solution to help reach and engage its patients post-visit to deliver effective Aftercare services that facilitate a quick path back to health.

“Providing an exceptional experience includes engaging our patients in a way that is convenient and easy for them,” said Ramu Kannan, Chief Information Officer of CityMD. “In our first eight months of using mPulse Mobile solutions, we have seen a phenomenal 60% response rate with interactive text messages as compared to 10% with phone calls. We are able to more effectively and efficiently engage our patients and deliver on our service commitment.”

The mPulse Mobile solution includes automated text dialogues that manage common Aftercare patient services that are sent automatically based on appointment types, lab results, referral needs and more. With 98% of text messages read and the convenience of using this channel, patient engagement is highest when delivered via text. In addition to creating a great patient experience, the mPulse Mobile solution is also helping keep the CityMD team focused on high-value activities such as inbound call handling rather than spending time making phone calls that go unanswered. With over 500,000 messages sent in eight months, that leads to a significant improvement in productivity.

“High volume, high scale healthcare services in urgent care settings require great care and focus on engaging patients to ensure their follow-up needs are met,” said Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile. “Partnering with a leader and intensely patient-centric organization like CityMD to deliver solutions that patients enjoy and engage with for improved health outcomes is core to our vision.”

To learn more about CityMD and mPulse Mobile at the upcoming HLTH: The Future of Healthcare conference: