Thanksgiving or Flu-Giving? How to Get People to Get their Flu Shot
By David Veroff
While the holiday season is a great time for giving and sharing, it’s also a time for giving and sharing the flu. So, how can we prevent that from happening?
This blog post is part two of a two-part series where we reveal strategies on driving flu shot vaccinations. In part one, we shared insights about which individuals are the most likely to be hospitalized from flu complications. Here, we share our top five strategies and lessons learned on how to more effectively engage consumers to get their flu shots.
According to the recent CDC flu guidelines, vaccines are recommended for everyone over 6 months old, with an emphasis on high-risk groups. However, even with the mountains of information that support the importance of flu shots, population health managers are still struggling to convince their consumers to get vaccinated – only 41% of Americans got flu shots in 2016, leaving most individuals unprotected and vulnerable.
And while, the flu shot may not be perfect, it is proven to be effective. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population. Each year, approximately 20% of Americans are diagnosed with the flu and this year is expected to be particularly bad. Without strategic interventions, we can expect to see millions of people become ill, hundreds of thousands be hospitalized and tens of thousands of people die.
Like all preventive treatments and screenings, the flu shot is far more cost-effective than a flu diagnoses and hospitalization. According to Healthcare Bluebook, the cost of the flu vaccine is between $24 to $40 per person, while the estimated total direct hospitalization costs of a severe influenza epidemic is over $3 billion. We have every incentive to increase awareness about the harmful repercussions of the flu and highly encourage consumers to get vaccinated.
Vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent influenza. So, as soon as vaccines become available, health plans and employers should take every step possible to support individuals getting flu shots. I’ve learned a lot from conducting countless flu vaccine campaigns for health plans in all parts of the country. Here are my top strategies and lessons learned:
1. Big Data Matters, Big Time
You may already know that some population groups are at a higher risk of being hospitalized from flu complications. However, by leveraging big data and advanced analytics, you can go deeper and focus additional outreach on the highest risk individuals and those most likely to take action based on nudges. For example, some of the insights we’ve gleaned from reviewing large integrated consumer and claims data sets include:
- Homeowners are slightly less likely to have a flu diagnosis
- Consumers living in a multi-family home or mobile home are more likely to have a diagnosis
- Consumers in a household with two or more females are slightly more likely to have a diagnosis
- Males are less likely to have a diagnosis (this may be because men are less likely to go to the doctor compared to their female counterparts)
- Consumers who paid more taxes are less likely to have a flu diagnosis
2. Education is Key
Make health literacy a focus by ensuring members understand why it is so important to get a flu shot, use consumer-friendly language and allow the process to be easy. For example, a set of Medicaid members were provided with advice on how to access nearby flu clinics; 65% of those reached in a follow-up call reported receiving a flu shot. Download the case study for more detail.
3. Go Multi-channel
Take a multi-channel communications approach to engage members in the manner in which they want to be reached (i.e. email, phone, text). Some health plans reported 80% to 90% reach rate by using a targeted approach. For example, one commercial plan experienced nearly 90% reach rate by using two methods of communications to individuals with chronic disease with 56% of those reached in a follow up call reporting they received a flu shot.
4. Reward Consumers
Use incentives to help motivate members to get the flu shot. For example, by offering their population a $10 financial incentive, one organization was able to motivate an additional 18% of individuals to get a flu shot. Even some retail pharmacies, like Walgreens and CVS, use incentives to get shoppers vaccinated.
5. Think About Timing
The flu season timeframe varies year to year, making it harder for health plans to determine when it is best to perform outreach. The flu season can begin as early as August and last until June, with the highest rates of influenza diagnoses occurring between January and April. The key is for organizations to begin outreach sooner rather than later, however outreach should be continuous and ongoing.
Interested in more strategies for engaging consumers? Download Welltok’s latest ebook: 10 Strategies for Health Plans to Achieve Personalization in Healthcare and let us know if you want to talk about a flu campaign for your consumers.
This blog is part two of a two-part series about flu shot vaccinations. Read part one here.