As Seen in BHR: 3 Analytics Strategies to Amplify Health Plan Member Engagement

By Kathleen Ellmore

I recently sat down with Morgan Haefner from Becker's Hospital Review to talk about what consumer-oriented organizations are doing that health plans should adopt to drive engagement. Spoiler alert: it's all about personalization!

During our conversation, I offered three actionable suggestions to amplify member engagement (included below). Many health organizations are starting to put these into practice, and achieving great results.   

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Seventy-seven percent of health plan-employed analytics professionals anticipate payers will increasingly invest in analytics during the next year, according to a survey by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte.

Among analytics professionals surveyed, 56 percent named improving policyholder or customer experience as the top reason for increasing spending on analytics. One way health plans can build consumer rapport is by using analytics to guide outreach attempts like traditional mail and email, said Kathleen Ellmore, vice president of engagement sciences at Welltok, a Denver-based consumer health software as a service company.

Ms. Ellmore, who previously served as brand manager at companies like General Mills and Procter & Gamble, told Becker's Hospital Review consumer-oriented companies discovered overloading consumers with messages "never works." Rather, "it's important to deliver your messages in a thoughtful, integrated, cohesive manner so consumers can shift through and find relevance."

Here are three thoughts from Ms. Ellmore about how health plans can use analytics to enhance plan holder communications and engagement.

1. Send consolidated, member-specific messages to increase policyholders' response to preventive care reminders. Sending multiple messages through several communications suppresses plan members' response, Ms. Ellmore said. For example, she said mailing three well-child visit reminders to a family with three children costs health plans resources and impedes the consumer experience.

Instead, using member-specific data to craft a targeted reminder detailing each child's needs increases the likelihood a parent will take their child to a preventive care visit by three times, she said.

2. Collect member-specific preferences regularly and promptly use the data. While most health plans want to capture consumer preferences like language and mode of contact, Ms. Ellmore said not all plans deploy the preferences in a timely manor.

"That's worse, because you set up an expectation," she said. "The key is to use [preferences] in a year, or they go stale."

When health plans initiate consumer communications, aggregating and enacting consumer preference data can boost efficiency, she added. It can also cut costs associated with standard mailing techniques and increase policyholders' response rates within the first outreach campaign instead of the fifth, Ms. Ellmore said.

3. Deploy data analytics tools to learn what drives behavior in each population. In the past, analytics professionals often played communication "traffic cops" with large payer clients by making sure health plans didn't send out enrollment information on the same day as their marketing materials, Ms. Ellmore said. That's "confusing for the consumers, because they think of you as one organization," she added.

Solving this problem led to EngageME, Welltok's data repository tool. The solution analyzes what communications are sent out to consumers during a period of time to understand how consumers interact with messages. While small payers may not need a data management solution to understand what drives consumer behavior, such tools can help large health plans organize swaths of data into prioritized messages.

"I think communication technology is making it easier to have a two-way relationship with your consumer experience," Ms. Ellmore said. She added this is important as healthcare consumers stray from "comparing healthcare experiences with other healthcare organizations" and look to other commercial brands like Starbucks instead.

Original article appeared in Becker's Hospital Review on July 24, 2017.