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Engagement drives utilization of preventive services


Health plans are supporting providers by offering outcomes-driven engagement programs for members

All new models of care, including accountable care organizations and medical homes, are looking for the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage the health of large populations. This is a major challenge, and patient engagement is the ideal way to address the issue, especially when it comes to preventive care.

DolinPatients not following recommended screenings and preventive services are a large contributing factor to the spiraling cost of healthcare. Take, for example, colonoscopies. Despite colorectal cancer being the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and one of the most preventable, only 53% of people 50 years and older follow recommendations for screenings.

On the surface, the new preventive services provision under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) should help address this issue, as the screenings are one of many preventive services recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force that insurers must now cover without cost-sharing.

With an estimated 71 million Americans now eligible for copay-free colonoscopies, what remains to be seen is the level at which patients will take advantage of this benefit. That’s why forward-thinking health plans are supporting providers by offering outcomes-driven engagement programs that close gaps and inspire members to take action.

Access plus affordability plus engagement  equals prevention.

These engagement strategies are powerful ways to increase utilization of preventive services such as colonoscopies while also boosting member satisfaction and loyalty:

  • Multi-modal communication: Increasingly, we are learning that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to messaging. Programs must be offered in multi-modal ways (Web-based, automated interactive phone calls, email, text messaging and mail). If the goal is to put patients at the center of care, then engagement efforts need to be designed with their convenience in mind. Patients need tools that allow them to be engaged on their terms, when and where they choose, and on the devices they already own.
  • Customized contact: Tools such as the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) that gauge individual members’ ability and interest in managing their own health and healthcare can be used to meet patients where they are, tailor engagement strategies and increase activation levels.
  • Web-based interactive programs: These initiatives can increase the bandwidth of providers while also freeing up more of their time to deliver care. Web-based programs can be leveraged not only to motivate members to schedule colorectal cancer screenings and other types of preventive care, but also to follow through. Surveys show that only 23% to 58% of patients who schedule colonoscopies keep those appointments. This wastes resources, increases costs and extends the waiting time for others seeking an appointment.

In a study that was presented last year at Digestive Disease Week, researchers found that patients who viewed a 30-minute online instructional video were 40% more likely than people who didn’t watch the video to keep their colonoscopy appointments and arrive prepared for the procedure.

  • Financial incentives: Financial incentives and wellness programs can be great motivators-if members know about them. Effective programs engage patients not only about the health benefits of preventive care, but also the more tangible ones, such as insurance premium reductions for adherence to scheduled screenings.

Empowering patients isn’t just good for their health-it’s good for disease management and the business of managed care.



Jordan Dolin is co-founder of Emmi Solutions, a healthcare communications company that builds technology-focused patient empowerment solutions.


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