Survey: Member Engagement Dominated 2021 Health Plan Priorities, But Consumers Proved Hard to Reach

Engagys, the leading healthcare consumer engagement consulting and research firm, revealed results from the Sixth Annual Survey of Healthcare Consumer Engagement Practices, a joint effort with RISE. Results highlight health plans’ enterprise-wide focus on consumer health engagement, their ongoing resolve to identify efficient communication channels, and the effects of health-related noise in 2021.

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Member experience continued to dominate health plan executives’ job descriptions, extending a longstanding rise to far exceed all other focus areas examined in the survey. Two in three (65.8%) respondents reported that member experience was within the scope of their role in 2021, a 13.5% increase over 2020.

“We’ve always said consumer experience should be everybody’s job, and now it is,” says Kathleen Ellmore, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Engagys. “It’s not surprising that health plans are taking enterprise-wide consumer experience measures to heart given the increased emphasis of experience measures in Medicare Advantage Star Ratings.”

When plans communicated with consumers in 2021, they chose SMS text more often. It was the only channel in a group of six that showed an uptick in participants’ reported utilization. Looking at channel performance, all but call center agents were less successful (many by double digits) at getting consumers to take action in 2021 than in 2020. Despite this, text messaging performed nearly as well as call centers.

“In this time of uncertainty, getting through the noise — especially health-related noise — has been a challenge,” observes Ellmore. “We’ve seen that a multi-channel approach combining SMS text with call centers can boost engagement while keeping outreach budgets in check.”

Plans appear to be mounting a response to these channel woes. In addition to leveraging multi-channel communication (48%), they’re looking to collaborate with providers and address social determinants of health (both 45%).

“The provider-patient relationship remains the strongest link to the consumer,” says Ellmore. “Many people find it difficult to disregard health advice from their doctor but have no problem ignoring their health plan.”

When it comes to measuring the success of consumer engagement programs, use of business case metrics like return on investment gained steam (a 24% increase) over clinical and quality metrics.

Executed in November 2021, nearly 100 entities responded to the Sixth Annual Survey of Healthcare Consumer Engagement Practices. Ellmore presented the results December 15 at the 12th Annual RISE Star Ratings Master Class in San Diego, Calif.

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