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Drive Member Engagement in Health Care With These 3 Strategies

By Phil Brit | Apr 25, 2018

Member engagement in health care is critical to the success of any program. According to research cited in The Business Journals, a 10 percent increase in engagement in health activities — from diet and exercise to managing conditions and taking care of mental health — can save an organization with 10,000 health care subscribers (factoring in their dependents) nearly $3 million thanks to medical expense reductions, administrative cost savings and productivity gains.

Yet member engagement is a challenge. NEJM Catalyst adds that among the top obstacles keeping providers from incorporating engagement into their processes are a lack of time to commit to such efforts, poor provider and patient adoption and the cost of investing in engagement initiatives.

Here are three ways the board can help members become more engaged in their health care plan.

1. Use Age-Based Engagement Methods

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, different age groups will respond to different incentives. While millennials will tend to have better exercise and weight control habits, they also are more likely to smoke and to request brand name drugs over generics. Baby boomers, on the other hand, value a good network of physicians and hospitals, easy access to health care and prescription drug coverage. And millennials tend to be more satisfied with the financial aspects of their plans than are members in other age groups.

So taking members' age makeup into consideration when designing the plan will incline them to engage from the get-go. In devising further engagement strategies, keep these specific generational concerns, habits and preferences in mind.

2. Use Social Media

A post on Evariant's blog says that 60 percent of physicians report that social media improves patients' quality of care. How? Social media aids health care providers in disseminating important health care information to patients and the general public alike. Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, for example, uses its Facebook page to provide news as well as informative posts about doctors and nonprivate patient information. The Mayo Clinic uses social media to disseminate authoritative details about various diseases and conditions.

Social media provides an excellent way not only to share health information but also to encourage open conversation between plan trustees, health care providers and patients. That said, it's vital to monitor any social media sites you establish to ensure that HIPAA and other privacy rules aren't violated. Evariant also cautions that, to be effective, any social media site needs to be actively managed. Simply adding a social media site without responding to messages from site visitors will not improve member engagement.

3. Leverage Digital Capabilities

Trustees should work with plan providers to make sure that members have full access to the rich benefits available via digital access, including easy sign-on, informative articles, infographics and videos and integrated health care options.

Integrated vision and dental options can help alert members to conditions like diabetes earlier than they might find out from an annual checkup. Similarly, integrated pharmacy benefits can help ensure that prescribed medications from various health care providers don't create health risks for patients. Some prescription medication combinations need to be avoided, while others should be closely monitored (and adjusted if complications do arise).

With these three methods, plan trustees can help drive member engagement in health care. While putting them into action does take some work, don't lose sight of your ultimate goals: improved health results for members and lower overall plan costs.

Phil Britt has worked as a journalist for 40 years, specializing in business issues for the last 30. His work covering the steel industry and its labor issues has been referenced in books, while his articles have appeared on numerous websites, national and international publications. Among current and past clients have been the American Medical Association, Afcom, the Credit Union National Association, Independent Banker, EH Publishing, the Southeast Chicago Development Commission, the Northwest Indiana Times and Insurance & Technology Magazine, just to name a few.