By John Coleman, senior director of marketplace solutions, Welltok.
The COVID-19 pandemic likely has Medicare members thinking ahead when it comes to their insurance plan and questioning whether they would be covered if they contract the virus, or if they would like to use telehealth services for routine doctor’s appointments.
In fact, a recent survey shows that 26% of Americans over the age of 64 intend to switch from their original Medicare plan to a Medicare Advantage plan in the next enrollment period. Open enrollment will be here before we know it, so it is important for health plans to focus on retaining these members by making sure they understand the value of their current plan and know that they are being taken care of.
Communication will be critical for health plans over the next few months, so they should revamp their strategy and follow this three-prong approach to improve Medicare member loyalty and retention.
Analyze consumer data
Clinical health data paints only a small picture of an individual’s health status. Some of the most important member information comes from social determinants of health, lifestyle or environmental factors. By analyzing both clinical and consumer data, health plans can better understand the wants and needs of their Medicare members and how best to engage with them. For example, one member may not have a car and need information about local COVID-19 testing sites and ride options, while another might be due for a mammogram and want details about the enhanced safety protocols their provider is taking during the pandemic.
When combined with predictive analytics, these data can also give health plans an early view into member behavior to see if they are at risk for disenrollment. One member’s favorite provider may no longer be contracted with the plan, or perhaps their doctor moved to a new office which is too far away for them to get to easily. These types of insights allow health plans to take a personalized approach and identify individual member priorities or potential problems they could have and quickly address or correct them. Health plans can then create personalized materials to communicate important information to members and identify the most efficient method for sharing materials with them.
There is a common misconception that Medicare members are not as tech savvy as younger generations, but 91% of adults prefer a text compared to a voicemail or live call and 80% of Americans over the age of 65 own a cell phone. This means that health plans should be incorporating text communication and emails into their outreach strategy to successfully engage with older members.
Text messages and emails are both a great way to share critical health information with members and to receive additional information back from them. By asking a question or including a response option, health plans can see if members need help getting a flu shot or COVID-19 test or need a ride to their next doctor’s appointment. Health plans can then meet this need and predict when a member might need assistance again.
Some members may still like to communicate via phone call or direct mail, so health plans should also use the consumer data they have gathered to figure out the best way to get in touch. By adapting to a preferred communication method, health plans can make sure that members feel the love with personalized information about the health and wellness services that are most relevant for them.
Offer continued support
One text or phone call will not be enough to fully engage with a member. Health plans should take a multi-channel and multi-touchpoint approach so that their members feel supported during these uncertain times. Nearly half of Americans say they or a family member has skipped or delayed care due to COVID-19. Multiple touchpoints like a text followed by an email or direct mail can help members stay on track in their health journey even if they are not able to go into the doctor’s office.
This approach is also a great way to promote preventable services like flu shots or cancer screenings, support programs aimed at boosting medication adherence or new telehealth services within the network. This approach will ensure that members know their health plan is looking out for them during these uncertain times and remained focused on their health priorities.
When members feel supported, they are more likely to remain loyal to their health plan. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is more important than ever for health plans to establish an efficient communication strategy. By leveraging clinical and consumer data, incorporating modern outreach methods and maintaining a consistent connection with members, health plans can successfully meet the needs of their members and improve overall retention.