Reprint: Getting Aligned For Consumer Engagement

(This just appeared in the publication by Frost  & Sullivan and McKesson called “Mastering the Art and Science of Patient Adherence“.  It was written by me so I’m sharing it here also for those of you that don’t get that publication.)

According to the 15th Annual NBGH/Towers Watson Health Survey, employees’ poor health habits are the number one issue for maintaining affordable benefits. Since studies have shown that 50-to-70 percent of healthcare costs are attributed to consumer choices and adherence is one of those issues, the topic of how to engage consumers isn’t going away.

The challenge is getting the healthcare industry to use analytics and technology tools when engaging the consumer in a way that works for each individual and builds on their proven success in other industries. Healthcare has an enormous amount of consumer data ranging from demographics to claims and behavior data. Consequently, there is great opportunity to use this data to engage consumers in their health to improve clinical outcomes. While on the one hand, it’s like motivating consumers to buy a good, the reality is that healthcare is both personal and local which complicates the standard segmentation models.

This is a dynamic time where people are experimenting with different strategies for engagement. For instance, in medication adherence, people are trying everything from teaming those who have chronic conditions with community pharmacists to make sure they are taking their medications correctly to technology that monitors when the pill actually enters your body. But, there are still fundamental gaps in the process which can be addressed using interactive technology to complement the pharmacist interventions.

Consumer engagement in healthcare is increasingly moving to new channels with 59 percent of adults in the U.S. looking for health information online and 9 percent using mobile health applications according to Pew Research Center. Additionally, there is more and more participation in social media or peer-to-peer healthcare applications. Modes like SMS, which companies are starting to leverage in programs like Text4Baby or the diabetes reminder program recently launched by Aetna, are gaining popularity. Companies like Walgreens have also begun exploring the use of SMS and Quick Response (QR) codes for medication refills.

At the end of the day, consumers want preference-based marketing where they can elect how to best engage them, but that doesn’t mean that’s the most likely channel to get them to take action.They want you to learn from their past responses to improve your future outreach, but they are also skeptic about how their data is used. You have to put yourself in their shoes to create the optimal consumer experience. You have to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time using the right sequence and combination of channels.This is not easy.

So, if you’re going to optimize your resources and build the best consumer experience, you need an approach which is dynamic and personalizes each experience. For example, we found that creating the right sequence and timing around direct mail and automated calls improved results by as much as 100 percent in a pharmacy program. Or, in another case, at Silverlink Communications, we found that using a male voice in an automated call to Latinos got an 89 percent better engagement rate around colonoscopies. We also know that using a peer pressure message does not work in motivating seniors to take action in both a retail-to-mail program and a cancer screening program, but does work for those younger than 55-years-old?

You have to make simple messaging relevant to them—why should I get a vaccination, why is medication adherence important, how can you address my barriers? Only an ongoing test and learn approach to consumer insights will suffice, and those that figure this out will become critical in the ongoing fight for mindshare and trust. But, this isn’t a stand-alone opportunity. We have to partner with providers to improve engagement, adherence, and ultimately outcomes in different forms. We have to offer them a platform for engagement that is built upon consumer insights and provides a unique consumer experience to them based on their disease, their demographic attributes, and their plan design. All of these factor into their behavior and are important in “nudging” them towards healthcare engagement and ultimately, better health.

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