Communication is the key to any successful relationship – personal or professional. This includes the relationship between a health plan and its members. Unfortunately, according to a recent HealthMine survey, most Medicare health plans aren’t succeeding when it comes to communication, with surveyed members citing missing reminders and notifications, lack of follow-up and cost information, and portals that don’t provide answers as just some of these communication issues.
Here’s a look at what the survey of 500 Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplemental members revealed about the gaps in their health plan’s communication:
- Only 10% of those with chronic conditions said they received reminders from their health plans.
- Just 16% say they received follow-up on quality of care after a provider visit with 53% saying they didn’t receive any follow up at all.
- 47% of plan members want information on how to lower healthcare costs, but only 11% are currently informed on how to do so.
- 47% of plan members say that their health plan’s online portal answers their questions either ‘rarely’ or ‘never.’
- Only 7% are connected to their health plan on social media.
- Just 31% of plan members receive notification from their health plan when providers drop out of network.
Those surveyed believe “health plan communications are impersonal” and that they “rarely visit their health plans social media and member portals” and feel that they are missing “valuable guidance” from their plans. After reading these findings, you might be thinking… yikes! However, it doesn’t have to be all about the negatives. Our key takeaway from this report is that there’s plenty of room for improvement – opportunities for health plans to improve communications that can lead to better care, more satisfaction and higher retention rates. As HealthMine notes “Getting the right information to those (high-risk) members in a timely manner is critical to success.”
Increase follow-up, and make it prompt.
Medicare plan members surveyed by HealthMine pointed to a lack of communication about chronic conditions. In fact, 44% said their health plan never communicated with them about their condition. On top of that, 53% of those surveyed said they had no communication from their health plan after a provider visit. With over two-thirds of all Medicare beneficiaries having at least two or more chronic conditions, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and given HealthMine’s insights that “follow up to Medicare patients can be critical in assuring medication compliance and adherence to care plans,” health plans would be wise to look for ways to improve chronic care communications in order to improve health outcomes. Improving communication may also aid in retention. According to Deft Research’s 2018 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study, members are likely to change plans if they feel their health needs have changed. Tracking these changes and staying in communication can reassure members that their needs are top priority which may keep them from looking elsewhere. While efforts like these may require integration with clinical and health data, they may be necessary as the HealthMine report tells health plans “providing the right information quickly can improve member satisfaction with your plan.”
Social media can help deliver timely information in an entertaining way.
Social media “humanizes” brands… including health plans. While only 7% of those surveyed by HealthMine said they were connected to their plan on social media, a majority of those connected (65%) found social media helpful and valuable. This number will only grow as Medicare members become more connected digitally and use social media more often. The results of our 2018 Senior Media Habits Study found that seniors have embraced social media. They access social media daily, with Facebook being the most popular platform. They mostly use it to connect with friends and family, post photos and videos and join groups and events. For health plans, social media creates an opportunity to communicate with members (and prospects!) in a timely manner. Social media can be used to educate members on preventive information, tools and strategies available for health behavior change and other important updates to their plan. We know that seniors watch online videos for both entertainment and utility at a high rate. Some ideas for videos could include “how-to’s” on lowering healthcare costs and using the plan’s online portal and reminders about health screenings. Be interactive. Connect with your members.
Technology can make health plans more accessible and personal.
An interesting find from this report was that while most Medicare members prefer answers via phone, digital came in at a close second with 31% preferring communication via email, text, website or app. According to the Pew Research Center, seniors are “moving towards more digitally connected lives.” Smartphone ownership, internet usage, and home broadband adoption have all increased and this trend looks to continue. With this in mind, it is important to look at your plan’s member portal. The HealthMine report found that while a majority of members are connected to it, most feel that it ‘rarely or never’ answers their questions online. Think of your health plan’s website and online portal as ‘go-to’ places for members when it comes to their healthcare needs. The role of a health plan is much more than just that of a claim’s processor. Health plans can provide information to members if they are using digital tools such as blood sugar monitors or fitness trackers, and provide tools for comparing prices on services to help them save money. Your website and member portal could be the home for this information.
Improving communications with your members can help health plans in many ways; improved member care and satisfaction, health outcomes and retention. And as HealthMine noted in their conclusion “In the Medicare world, these things add up to improved star ratings and improved CAHPS scores.”communications strategies, health insurance marketing, health insurers, health plan marketing, Medicare marketing, social media marketing