It takes more work than you might think to go from “I’ve been reminded to get my annual wellness visit” to “I just received my annual wellness visit.” However, with healthcare organizations increasingly focused on the Triple Aim of lowered costs, improved population health, and higher-quality care, the specific individual needs of healthcare consumers need to be considered to move them from health engagement to health action.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer that works for everyone. But there are six key forces that organizations should consider when looking to move healthcare consumers to take actions that improve their health:
1. A new era of healthcare experiences. An increase in choice and costs is driving consumerism in healthcare, meaning organizations in the industry need to create consumer-centric experiences that meet the expectations created by other sectors such as retail. At the same time, U.S. households spend an average of 8.4% of their annual incomes on healthcare, making it one of the largest and most important financial commitments we make.
Healthcare consumers expect more from something they spend so much of their hard-earned money on. This often means modern and efficient digital-first experiences that make their lives easier. For example, one survey found that 22% of people say that making digital health services available would influence whether or not they would give a provider a five-star review. Another 18% said they would leave a provider if better digital experiences were available elsewhere.
2. Making use of the abundance of data. Data is used across industries to create better consumer experiences. For example, Spotify uses data to recommend music you may like, Starbucks uses data to entice you to buy your favorite drinks, and the list continues. Similarly, healthcare providers and health plans need to embrace data to inform intelligent communication strategies that get people to take action on their healthcare.
Every individual has a healthcare story unique to them. Data conveys that story to both health plans and providers, giving them a significant opportunity to address individual consumers’ specific values, interests and challenges.
3. Personalized communication. Building on the previous point, once an individual’s unique preferences and challenges are understood, healthcare organizations can use that knowledge to develop personalization tactics and create an individualized healthcare consumer journey. For example, some health consumers prefer to communicate with their health plan via email, while others prefer text messages. Reaching out to members using their preferred communication method vastly improves the chances that they will not only be receptive to the message but ultimately act on it.
Personalization can also be used in granting healthcare consumers rewards as an incentive to complete health actions. Knowing an individual’s wants and needs helps organizations choose meaningful rewards and is more likely to get them to take action.
4. Behavioral science. As organizations learn more about what drives people to take healthy actions, behavioral science is becoming an increasingly vital component of health engagement strategies. One of the most common examples of this at work is the annual effort to get more people to receive flu shots.
Most people tend to have good intentions when it comes to vaccinations such as flu shots, but it’s clear they don’t always follow through on those intentions. After working with several flu shot programs across dozens of health plans and tens of thousands of health consumers, the results show that addressing the intuitive beliefs of each individual in tandem with behavioral tactics delivers greater impact than simply providing more basic information about the shot itself.
5. Testing and learning. Looking at historical trends is important, but health organizations should also employ A/B testing in each of their programs to get a more accurate sense of what works and what doesn’t. In some cases, this leads to surprising results.
We recently worked with a health plan that wanted to motivate members with recent emergency room visits to visit a primary care provider, with the ultimate goal of reducing repeat ER visits. Despite the perception that reaching baby boomers via text messages wouldn’t be effective, we found that 70% of members in this demographic actually responded to text messages, a learning that was then applied across other member communication priorities.
6. AI and machine learning. Previously mentioned components such as A/B testing, behavioral science, and personalization take time to execute, but artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can speed up the process by automating insight generation.
For example, AI can create a much more personalized healthcare experience by tracking variables such as communication channel preferences, patient values, and past behavior. All this data can be captured and analyzed person-by-person, allowing organizations to create intelligent health engagement strategies that drive action for each individual. Similarly, machine learning can both test and measure responses to various types of outreach and automatically increase the methods that work and remove those that don’t for each individual.
While many healthcare organizations have fallen behind in delivering the high level of experiences that today’s consumers demand, it also means there is a huge opportunity for those that can execute to differentiate their offerings. Considering these six forces at play will not only create an inherent competitive advantage, but it will also – more importantly – get populations to take health action and ultimately drive improved outcomes.
Photo: Nuthawut Somsuk, Getty Images