We offer five tips for health plans seeking to improve member education campaigns.
When you decide to launch a member education campaign, your goal should be for the campaign to move the needle on a key issue.
Perhaps you want to encourage members to access a particular program or resource that will help them achieve better health. Or perhaps you want to educate members to better understand their benefits, learn more about a particular health condition and the available treatment options, or embrace preventive care services.
Ultimately, you want to empower your patients to improve and maintain their health. (In addition to the obvious benefits, it saves everyone a lot of money and energy.)
So it’s frustrating when a campaign misses the mark—and you don’t get the results you’d hoped for. When launching your next member education campaign, follow these five tips to achieve better results.
1 | Focus your message.
Before you get started, ask this question: “What is the primary goal of this campaign?” That can help target your message to the right recipients and create a clear call to action.
Some campaigns are designed to reach very specific subgroups within your member population, and you want to make sure the right people receive the right information. For example, an organization may want to focus on education around mammograms and should therefore target only women between the ages of 40 and 75.
Other campaigns may be much broader, such as an effort to persuade everyone to get a seasonal influenza vaccine. You’ll need to incorporate information that’s relevant to a much broader swath of people—and make sure that all the clinical information is correct and up to date.
It’s important not to lose sight of the human element. If a campaign is too abstract, you might not get through to people. You want members to start thinking about their own health and the decisions they’re making. That might include decisions to delay important types of preventive care, which could have a negative impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
2 | Use strategic timing for your member education campaign.
To maximize the effectiveness of certain campaigns, you’ll need to be strategic about launching them at a particular time.
Take the aforementioned flu vaccine campaign. When should members get flu shots? When will flu shots be available? Determine the right window of time—perhaps early autumn—to improve the likelihood that members will act on the suggestion to get vaccinated for seasonal influenza.
Educational campaigns can also be linked to national observances and events. For example, you might want to plan to launch your mammogram campaign in September, in advance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
3 | Understand your target audience’s preferred type of communication.
It’s critical to understand the most appropriate engagement contact strategy when it comes to reaching out to members. Different groups may prefer different avenues of communication. You can’t educate your members if you’re not sure if you should be calling them, emailing them, texting them, mailing out printed materials, or using various social media platforms for posting messages and information.
In fact, many health plans use a combination of strategies. For example, during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, some health plans launched campaigns that included national television ads, new websites focused specifically on COVID-19, and other digital content to let members know what services were available to them.
Understanding members’ needs and preferences and tailoring your strategies accordingly can improve communication and facilitate better care management, too. Ideally, look for care management solutions that allow you to create, launch and track member education campaigns within the system, connecting care management and campaign management seamlessly.
4 | Keep health literacy in mind.
Ask yourself: Is our message getting through? While it’s certainly important to know an email reached the member’s inbox or a text message was read, it’s also important to consider if the message will be understood.
According to a 2015 report in American Family Physician, more than one-third of all adults in the United States, or about 80 million people, have limited health literacy. The study noted that adults typically read at an eighth-grade level, but at least three-quarters of patient education materials are written at a high school reading level or higher. That creates a big gulf between what they can digest and what healthcare organizations may be telling them.
When a health plan creates educational materials for members, the message shouldn’t get lost in technical language, as a Modern Healthcare article about educational campaigns cautioned. In other words, don’t let health literacy be an obstacle to your goal. Instead, keep in mind that members aren’t doctors and nurses. They may not understand complicated, clinical descriptions of health conditions.
Educational materials and campaigns should meet them where they are.
5 | Provide easy access to a patient advocate.
The reality is that health insurance is complicated. No matter how great your educational materials are, some members will still have questions—and they will get frustrated if no one is available to answer them. Providing an accessible patient advocate to field those questions can alleviate some of that frustration. Accessible is the key word. Provide a phone number that a member can call or text with questions. Make sure that someone knowledgeable responds in a timely manner to all requests for help so that members know they’ll be able to get an answer.
The better educated your members are, the more able they will be to make informed decisions about their care, and the more likely they will be to remain engaged in their own well-being. Your health plan’s ability to develop effective member education campaigns is essential to positive patient outcomes and your organization’s financial health.