Five ways to engage members in healthy lifestyles

May 10, 2013

Boosting member loyalty and improving health outcomes are vital to plan success.

Boosting member loyalty and improving health outcomes are two parallel objectives vital to plan success. For example, with Medicare Advantage plans a 1% increase in member retention through annual enrollment period and/or a one-point star rating improvement can represent millions in revenue. Effective member engagement strategies that promote healthy lifestyles can improve both retention and population health outcomes. The following are recommendations to retain and engage members in pursuing healthy lifestyles.  

1.) Start small, move slowly and create successful experiences.

Change doesn’t occur overnight. Plans do best when they stop short of asking members to demonstrate early, substantial behavior change and engage members slowly, offering prompts and encouragement for small victories like taking medication or scheduling doctor appointments. For example, a 12-week program might include separate units such as goal setting, medication management, blood glucose testing, diet, exercise or risk reduction. By providing health information and alerts in small “doses” over multiple weeks, plans can support members through the delicate process of learning, engaging and changing.

2.) Emphasis education.

Member education doesn't require long, turgid paragraphs and complex jargon. While health information must fit the criteria of relevance, timeliness, reliability and credibility, it can also be fun and engaging. One of the best approaches is to use storytelling where members or celebrities chronicle their diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Healthcare organizations that have already tapped the power of patient stories include providers like Mayo Clinic, which features its stories on YouTube, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Few resources are more powerful than a well-told member story embedded with easy-to-access tips, guidelines and multimedia resources.  

3.) Reach members via popular communication channels.

Engage members via communication channels they know, understand and use on a regular basis. While some consumers still prefer direct mail, print publications and phone communications, others live and work in an environment dominated by e-mail, text reminders and an ever-growing portfolio of web and mobile applications. The best approach is not to abandon traditional mediums, but to offer a broad spectrum of channels and technologies to effectively reach all members. In this way, a plan will improve its odds of reaching every member to encourage behavior change and the adoption of a healthier lifestyle. The optimal engagement platform would likely include a personal portal; multimedia delivery of information (television, online, mobile and print), educational content; interactive components, a variety of weekly and monthly communications, community forums and reminders and reinforcements. 

4.) Develop partnerships to leverage brand equity.

Forge relationships with companies that have already earned members’ recognition and respect. Develop co-branded solutions with the power to garner members’ ongoing attention, appreciation and trust. In a crowded space, it is hard to get members’ attention and trust. Leveraging trusted brands, as UnitedHealthcare has done with AARP, can help plans cut through the noise and increases the likelihood that a member tunes into the message. Make sure any co-branded solution is closely integrated with your plan’s existing services-in messaging, look, feel, tone and delivery.

5.) Offer high-quality services at competitive rates.

Before establishing a behavior change solution, ensure the cost structure fits your plan’s design. Make sure that the program aligns with your organization’s business objectives and financial goals, and align any program costs and potential revenue with expectations. One tip to reduce per-member costs is to leverage existing assets and rely on digital media more than expensive clinician services.    

Deploying population health strategies and programs can cost-effectively engage members across multiple channels, providing choice and support to drive measurable behavior change. Efforts have the potential to simultaneously increase member satisfaction while driving significant population health quality improvements.