By Kaleigh Koenig
On October 24th, I walked into my very first professional conference. The RISE HEDIS & Quality Improvement Summit. Not only was the location of the Loews Coronado picturesque, but the buzz as you entered the ballroom was palpable.
I came in eager to learn and observe and a little self conscious about my shoe choice of white vans (Wellth is typically your traditional tech “casual dress” workplace), but when I looked over the agenda I got a resurgence of excitement. The main problem being discussed the next two days was centered around health equity and member engagement—something I’ve been focusing on the last year as I started getting involved with Wellth’s marketing efforts and how to best frame our impact.
Here are my takeaways.
In a session hosted by Ana Handshuh (Principal at CAT5 Strategies), Jeremy Stone (Senior Vice President of Health Plan Solutions at Everly Health Solutions), and Daniel Weaver (Executive VP of Product Operations and Stars Strategy at Nations Benefits), the presenters covered how to engage members and subsequently boost quality ratings.
Handshuh, Stone, and Weaver highlighted that, although the pandemic created significant disruptions to our everyday life, it also brought about long overdue change in the healthcare arena. As supply chain and trained provider shortages occurred, healthcare leadership were forced to consider aspects of healthcare management often overlooked.
Furthermore, as individuals tried to stay out of hospitals and provider offices—both to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and to save resources and bedspace for severe COVID cases—the need for digital health resources increased. This shift from utilization-focused healthcare provided a catalyst for wider-spread adoption of value-based care.
When the broad consumerization of healthcare is no longer effective—in other words, when members are no longer coming to health plans—the health plans must be willing to go to them.
Wellth’s model provides the support and touch points necessary to help members feel cared for—while allowing for individual autonomy to empower members to self-manage their chronic conditions. Wellth’s live support team checks in regularly on members who have fallen off the routine of checking in, providing critical social support that leaves members feeling heard and like they have an advocate for their individual needs.
“The thing for me is [Wellth] helps me stay on track. I always go through my mania phases and it hurts me really bad to where it makes my emotions go up and down… I completely shut out the world, except you guys I would answer you because I was trying to keep up my meds. But when I was encouraged to take them and i was able to take them so long in a row it actually became easier for me to stay with it”
In a session with Dr. Shannon Decker ( VP of Clinical Performance at Brown and Toland) and Dr. Jatin Dave (Chief Medical Officer and Director of Clinical Affairs at MassHealth), they shared that 80% of health outcomes are determined by social determinants. Once we collect this data, what can we do about it?
Representation and advocacy are important elements to understanding how to take the data we receive, utilize it to create programs for change, and align the messaging of those programs in a way that speaks to member demographics. Decker and Dave referred to this as the “Amazon Effect.” Catering member messaging the way Amazon has been able to show you an advertisement for the exact blender your neighbor has been bragging about and 20 others like it.
With the right messaging and data, how do we use these tools to better address social determinants for our members?
We’ve discussed in the past the role of community resources in creating an instrumental buffer from social determinants of health. These resources, however, are only as impactful when shared with the appropriate populations.
Digital health platforms can help support such sharing by providing members with a streamlined experience for communicating outstanding needs—such as food insecurity, inability to pay for prescription medications, and more—and escalating those needs to the appropriate parties for actionable follow-up. Furthermore, digital health can routinely screen for potential social determinants of health, simplifying data collection for cleaner, more consistent data for follow-up.
By establishing authentic outreach to get first hand information on the lives of members and what resources they need, health plans facilitate better communication and ultimately create better solutions to common healthcare disparities.
Incentive programs can help even the financial playing field between members—as well as create an initial motivator for involvement.
Newton’s law states that “an object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force.” Incentives act as the needed “outside force” on two levels—providing both the needed resources to help address social determinants and the needed motivation to overcome present bias and make healthy behavior changes.
Incentives help “even the financial playing field” by giving members access to additional resources—whether that’s through flexible rewards that can be spent on various needs, or through more structured programs that narrow reward categories to key necessities such as food, prescription medications, or household necessities.
Wellth has been able to track our member’s rewards spending and found that almost 70% spend their rewards on food and groceries, 20% spend it on household needs, 7% on vehicle maintenance and fuel, and 5% home repairs.
“The financial rewards helped me a lot also. I am part of a low income population… With the rewards I received, I was able to buy shampoo, soap, some groceries, and vitamins. I feel that it is really beneficial to have this kind of program available for us since it creates healthy habits for us and at the same time helps us have a better quality of life.”
With diversity and inclusion being a hot topic in the media, it’s not surprising that the conversation carries over to healthcare.
Healthcare disparities in particular are coming to light and must be addressed to improve member satisfaction, experience, and quality of care. We cannot meet members where they are at without inclusive messaging. This includes ensuring inclusivity in advertising (such as image selection and messaging that represents not only ethnically diverse individuals, but individuals from other marginalized communities—such as trans communities—as well) and actively utilizing multi-cultural communication channels between providers, health plans, and members.
Ultimately, create an experience catered to the individual. Speak their language. Sometimes literally.
Our members are looking for trust and transparency—transparency in cost, in why the desired outcomes matter, and on the value of the information they are being given. Members want to know that the objectives of the provider are aligned with what is best for the member, and that they will be treated like a person, not a persona.
To hone in on messaging that fosters trust from members, we have to understand the different motivators and behaviors impacting members and address them accordingly.
Wellth, as an example, tackles intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivators in order to create lasting engagement and loyalty. This can look like tangible rewards, personalized messaging, encouragement from family members, etc.
As we better understand what motivates our members, we’re better positioned to support their behaviors, too—and provide support when members are struggling with new medications or dosages, sticking to dietary restrictions, completing needed exercise regimens, or facing social determinants.
Changing habits can be hard. (And eating ice cream and watching TV all day can feel really good). But by providing live support, without judgement or condescension, and utilizing intrinsic motivation and choice architecture, we can empower members to make healthy decisions as we understand and meet them where they are.
I came away from the conference with a better perspective of Wellth’s purpose and the ways our solution can help benefit countless people who are fighting an uphill battle with their chronic healthcare. Because our members are our mission.
So I didn’t only learn an important lesson in business casual attire, I also came away learning more about how the future of healthcare is taking shape into something incredibly exciting and empowering. Seeing the global push for equality taking root in the healthcare industry—and the way Wellth can help move the medical field forward into the digital age—makes me optimistic for a more equitable healthcare system moving forward.