Strategic HealthComm

Healthcare + Communications = HealthComm

So, what is HealthComm?  This is a word that we used at Silverlink Communications to describe our solutions.  As our clients knew, Silverlink began as a company which provided automated outbound calls to members and patients across the healthcare continuum.These are intelligent, interactive calls that use speech recognition technology to create a dialogue with people about their healthcare.

This automated outbound calling technology is still a core piece of the solutions and has been shown to be more efficient and effective than direct mail and a complementary technology to call center representatives (CSRs) making outbound calls.  (For example, I know one client that estimates that by using Silverlink’s technology they have increased their disease management nurses’ ability to support patients by 4x moving from 50 patients per nurse to 200!)

In working with our clients, we determined that the call statistics (e.g., # of people who authenticated, # of people that transferred) typically were not the client’s ultimate business objective.  We realized that it was more important to be aligned with our clients’ business objectives in order to optimize results.  These solutions typically involve bringing subject matter expertise, best practices, analytics, custom reporting, multi-channel coordination, and program management to the table.

Healthcare communications or HealthComm is an increasingly important discipline for health plans and other healthcare enterprises.  To a certain degree, communications is the product in healthcare.  Other than the physician, this is how many people experience their plan – through member materials, the website, and EOBs, among other communications.  And, it has traditionally been an overlooked competency within health plans because the buyer is typically the employer not the individual.

With consumerism and the growth of individual health insurance (both in the Medicare and commercial populations, communications with consumers is even a more important core competency for the plans.  However, communications is a weakness for many healthcare enterprises.In the 2007 JD Powers report on the healthcare industry, communications was ranked as the 3rd most important factor relative to consumer satisfaction (after benefit design and network), but was ranked last in performance on this attribute (7th out of 7 variables).  And in a Forrester report on consumer experience, health plans rank dead last (out of 7 industries evaluated) on overall consumer experience factors.

There are several attributes which seem to come out in any client discussion about HealthComm.  I share these here to help you tee up these conversations internally and improve your results.

Multi-Channel – There are a lot of channels that can be used to communicate with consumers – web, direct mail, e-mail, fax, SMS (text messaging), call center agents, mobile, social, and automated calls.  Each of these has its relevance and may be appropriate depending on the communications program.  Some considerations are:

  • Member preferences.
  • Member historical behavior.
  • Mode limitations.
  • Sequencing of modes.

Process Management – Communications is part of a process and needs to be viewed that way not as an isolated event.

  • What is the communication process?
  • What are the inputs and outputs?
  • What are the CTQ (critical to quality) points in the process?
  • How should you measure it?
  • What drives the metrics?

Decision Science / Analytics – One of the benefits in healthcare is all the data we have around claims and demographics.  This should allow companies to personalize communications and make them relevant.  I am much more likely to act on a program that is specific to me than on one that is so generalized that I don’t know if I am affected.   In every other industry (grocery, casino, financial services, online), this data is used to make you engage.   (It’s like the traditional corner store where the shop keeper knew you by name and understood what you liked.)

  • What reporting is provided? Is it real-time or batch?
  • How is the data aggregated across channels and brought back into a member warehouse?
  • Can I access the reports over the Internet 24×7 and “spin the cube”?
  • Are the reports simply operational or can I create custom reports with any data that you have in the system?
  • What data do you store and in what format?
  • What insights do you have from previous programs?How do I re-use those in my future programs?
  • What is the test and control plan?
  • How frequently are changes made?
  • What are all the levers that can be used?
  • What best practices are brought to the table?
  • How flexible is reporting and analysis to identify trends and sub-segments?

Flexible Technology Architecture – There are lots of solutions out there that can be used.It is important to think about several things:

Ultimately, what should matter most to you (and certainly does to me) are the net results relative to your business objectives.  How did this HealthComm program perform compared to your baseline or to a control group?  And, what is the ROI (return on investment)?

Some of your communications are complex based on business rules.And, as you learn more about driving consumer behaviors, micro-segmentation can get even more complex.I  nitial success should be more than incremental as you apply decision science and analytics.

Push the envelope.  Be creative.  Realize you can make a difference with HealthComm and impact health outcomes.  And, make sure to think about this from the member or patient perspective.

One Response to “Strategic HealthComm”

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    17: e10-e16 January 2011 Number 1
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    Telephone-Based Disease Management: Why It Does Not Save Money
    Brenda R. Motheral, PhD
    Published Online: January 14, 2011 – 12:00:12 AM (EST)
    Objectives: To understand why the current telephone-based model of disease management (DM) does not provide cost savings and how DM can be retooled based on the best available evidence to deliver better value.

    Study Design: Literature review.

    Methods: The published peer-reviewed evaluations of DM and transitional care models from 1990 to 2010 were reviewed. Also examined was the cost-effectiveness literature on the treatment of chronic conditions that are commonly included in DM programs, including heart failure, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, and asthma.

    Results: First, transitional care models, which have historically been confused with commercial DM programs, can provide credible savings over a short period, rendering them low-hanging fruit for plan sponsors who desire real savings. Second, cost-effectiveness research has shown that the individual activities that constitute contemporary DM programs are not cost saving except for heart failure. Targeting of specific patients and activity combinations based on risk, actionability, treatment and program effectiveness, and costs will be necessary to deliver a cost-saving DM program, combined with an outreach model that brings vendors closer to the patient and physician. Barriers to this evidence-driven approach include resources required, marketability, and business model disruption.

    Conclusions: After a decade of market experimentation with limited success, new thinking is called for in the design of DM programs. A program design that is based on a cost-effectiveness approach, combined with greater program efficacy, will allow for the development of DM programs that are cost saving.
    (Am J Manag Care. 2011;17(1):e10-e16)

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