By Thomas Tran
Don’t Leave Digital Engagement Dollars on the Table
Healthcare organizations can positively change member behavior AND measurably reduce medical costs using digital engagement
In our digital age, consumers are undoubtedly connected by various communication channels including phone calls, emails, texts, and social media. Nearly all U.S. adults own a cell phone and over half of all U.S. adults own a smartphone. [1,2] Many consumers use their smartphones for everyday activities like online banking, looking for a place to live, searching for a job, and following breaking news. The majority of smartphone users even use their mobile devices for health-related activities.  More consumers are finding value in using digital channels to manage their healthcare, and specifically to health plans, the vast majority of consumers prefer to interact digitally with insurers.  Given the wide adoption of technology, how are healthcare organizations using digital strategies to engage with consumers?
Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations are behind the curve with digital engagement. There are many reasons why healthcare organizations are either reluctant or slow to adopt digital engagement with consumers. According to a Health Enterprise Partners survey of 1,500 executives at hospital systems, integrated delivery networks, health plans, and health care services companies, the top challenges that healthcare organization face in successfully implementing a consumer engagement strategy include:
- Inability to measure ROI of consumer engagement efforts
- Lack of appropriate resources to manage efforts
- Inability to turn data into actionable insights for consumer engagement
- Limitations of existing technology
- Managing HIPAA and other privacy concerns
Further, the top challenges that healthcare executives face when designing a consumer engagement strategy include understanding what motivates different consumers, crafting messages that resonate with consumers, explaining complex healthcare concepts to consumers, and understanding the best channels to use when communicating with different consumer segments.  Given these challenges, how can healthcare organizations improve their digital engagement strategy?
In order to answer that question, it would be worthwhile to consider what consumers want. Consumers prefer simplistic digital features to help them navigate the healthcare system. Based on a survey conducted by PwC, the four most preferred features consumers wanted from their health plans include an out-of-pocket estimator, simple access to health records, mobile post-care instructions and follow-up notifications, and online appointment scheduling with in-network providers.  Of course, there’s not a one-size fits all approach to digital engagement. Consumer preference for digital engagement in healthcare will vary based on age, gender, health status, and even behaviors and attitudes towards healthcare. If digital engagement opportunities are available to consumers, such as mobile phone apps or text alerts, healthcare organizations can help consumers change their habits and behaviors and improve their health. 
That’s why at NextHealth Technologies, we help health plans identify the consumer engagement strategy that works for their members to change behavior and reduce medical cost. Using our platform, we use predictive analytics to identify populations with avoidable and impactable behavior for a targeted use case. By using prescriptive analytics, we can define the best outreach strategy based on unique attributes of each population to change member behavior. Whether it’s a texting campaign to find the nearest urgent care or a Nurse Advice Line email campaign to avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room, we’re able to help our clients develop and execute campaigns that will have the best impact on the target population. Lastly, we use our platform to dive into the details of each campaign to determine what worked best for specific member populations and how well each delivery channel performed. The platform also measures ROI and optimizes subsequent campaigns to focus resources on the highest performing campaigns across the targeted populations, resulting in reduced medical costs and better outcomes for members.
- Anderson, Monica. “Technology Device Ownership: 2015.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.
- Smith, Aaron. “U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.
- Shea, William, and Jagan Ramachandran. The Digital Mandate for Health Plans. Rep. Cognizant.
- Schreiber, Stephanie, and William Eggbeer. The Search for Consumer Engagement ROI: Pitfalls and Needle Movers. Health Enterprise Partners.
- Fengler, Keith, Jaime Estupinan, and Kenny Chan. What Consumers Most Want From Health Insurers’ Technology. Strategy+business.
- Greenspun, Harry, Sarah Thomas, Gregory Scott, and David Betts. Health Care Consumer Engagement No “one-size-fits-all” Approach. Deloitte.
If you’d like to learn more about how NextHealth can help your organization reduce medical costs using our prescriptive analytics and consumer engagement platform, please contact us.