How Marketers Can Strengthen Healthcare Member Engagement — and Prevent Attrition
4/23/2018 Nicole Williams
If you’re looking to strengthen healthcare member engagement and prevent attrition in the rapidly changing healthcare marketplace, then you’re going to have to spend a lot more time getting to know your members than you used to.
Today’s members are increasingly informed consumers and smart buyers. The most successful health plans today are responding to this shift by taking the time to focus on what members want and on who they are as people. These plans ask the following about their customers:
- What is their life like?
- Where do they live and shop?
- What are their passions?
- What drives them?
Once you can answer these questions about your members, you’ll be able to understand their current needs and have the tools to anticipate their needs down the road. This puts your organization in a better position to meet those requirements and increase member retention rates.
If your organization is not putting member engagement as a priority it may find itself falling behind. Many organizations are already fighting to make this change. In fact, according to a recent study by PwC, 49% of healthcare provider executives said revamping the patient experience is one of their organization’s top three priorities over the next five years.
Mine member data to create personalized experiences
When prioritizing the improvement of member engagement, you may wonder where to start. First, take full advantage of the information you already have — known as your health plan encounter data. This information provides insights about your members and allows you to acknowledge them and their value to the health plan.
Afterwards, your organization should focus on gathering information that can help you personalize interactions with your members. Once your health plan has a clearer picture of its members, you can personalize your materials to help drive engagement. People like being treated like people — not numbers. Today’s members are savvier than ever, and they’re accustomed to personalized customer experiences when they shop, go to the bank, and engage in entertainment activities — and they expect the same level of personalization from their healthcare experience.
Today’s members are savvier than ever, and they’re accustomed to personalized customer experiences when they shop, go to the bank, and engage in entertainment activities — and they expect the same level of personalization from their healthcare experience.
Creating this personalized experience for your members can be a considerable challenge. If your organization is beginning to work toward establishing an approach and method for member engagement, start small. Look at what you already know about members, such as their:
- Last interaction
- Years as a member
- Information on diagnoses/aftercare
- Billing and payment history
- Online browsing history
- Life events
- Appointment confirmations/reminders
- Doctor and treatment center/recommendations.
In addition, try to use imagery that relates to a specific member, rather than the offer you’re sending them.
Get your communication strategy right
Keep in mind that sometimes efforts designed to draw members in can backfire if poorly executed. Consider how the member will feel if he or she is getting duplicate notifications, or worse — conflicting messages from your health plan.
Disjointed efforts occur when your organization has different departments that aren’t communicating with one another. Prevent this problem by setting up systems to ensure any communication pieces that go out are consistent, on-brand, and member-centric. Historically, some of the worst missteps have been made in the area of preventative care communications, explanation of benefits (EOBs), letters that fail to deliver information in an engaging fashion, and communications that come off as slick marketing pieces rather than helpful information.
Mapping the member journey
In addition to communicating effectively, it’s imperative to understand what members are experiencing when they interact with your health plan. Today, you can’t go anywhere without hearing about mapping the member journey. While it may sound like marketing jargon, member journey mapping is far more than a buzz phrase. Taking the time to follow your member’s progress through the healthcare system can help you identify friction points that can lead to dissatisfaction. If you don’t know where these points are, you can’t fix them.
However, you should be wary of the hypothetical patient journey. If you aren’t validating your findings by asking real members about their experiences, the process can give you false information. Some organizations develop these member journey maps in a bubble — without member input — which render them useless.
If you aren’t validating your findings by asking real members about their experiences, the process can give you false information. Some organizations develop these member journey maps in a bubble — without member input — which render them useless.
Bouncing your ideas off real members is also critical to testing new materials. Whether it’s a product, an app, website landing page, or insert — be certain to ask a real cross section of members what they think of it before distribution. Other industries do this automatically, but this step is sometimes skipped in healthcare. It may take a little more time up front, but will ultimately save you time and money if your concept has missed the mark or needs serious tweaking.
Use negative data, positively
Sometimes, members leave despite your best efforts. When they do, use it as an opportunity for improvement. Determine what went wrong and fix the problem. If you do, you could potentially win them back.
When you take steps to understand your members and give them what they’re looking for, you can improve engagement, increase satisfaction, and hopefully increase member retention. Many organizations spend big dollars trying to lure in new members, but little to none are keeping the members they already have.
Many organizations spend big dollars trying to lure in new members, but little to none are keeping the members they already have.
The healthcare member engagement strategies we’ve talked about are straightforward, time-tested, and have been proven to be effective in other industries for many years. However, while these ideas are hardly revolutionary, they’re new to healthcare and may require a shift in your company’s mindset and culture to make them work. Making this shift can take some time and effort, but your members will thank you in the long run with their loyalty.
Nicole Williams is director of business development for RRD Healthcare Solutions.
How can we help you improve your member communication? Contact us for more information.