As rising healthcare costs eat away at an organization’s bottom line, benefits managers look to: (1) reduce the cost of employee benefits, and (2) drive healthy outcomes by influencing member behavior. Communications can play a vital role in reaching these goals.
Communicating benefits is not merely sharing facts and figures, though. Instead, you should approach communications the way a marketer does, by using every tool available to influence behavior in the most cost-efficient way possible.
The real communications challenge is marketing the plan to program members and driving desired behaviors and outcomes. By thinking of every benefits challenge as a marketing problem, you can employ marketing practices to reduce communications complexity and plan costs, and drive healthy outcomes. This requires a well thought out, targeted communications program.
Marketing Practices At Your Disposal
Some marketing practices particularly useful in healthcare communications are:
- Segmentation. Segmentation analytics break down a population into groups so you can choose the messages that resonate most with each segment. Experience design uses experts to interpret member data to determine the best way to reach each audience segment and the best cadence, or frequency, of contact.
- Location Intelligence. Using segmentation tools along with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), you can relate data to geographic areas. Members need only receive information about participating pharmacies and Primary Care Providers (PCPs) in their area. This drives down printing, postage, and warehousing costs for those huge preprinted directories that are no longer necessary.
- Differentiated Messaging. A Variable Composition tool helps customize communications templates to specific audiences. One letter can be produced with different pictures for different targets. You can even tailor the language to the one spoken in the member’s household.
- Differentiated Multichannel Delivery. Targeted marketing also helps effectively deploy the full range of communication channels, including texting, blogs, podcasts, social networks, and search, as well as traditional media. Hard copy printed materials still remain the dominant format for healthcare communications, as confirmed by a recent survey on healthcare benefit communications preferences. Print is particularly important in families, where options for coverage, care, and providers are shared with others. This preference for print also creates effective “transpromo” opportunities, such as a wellness message embedded in an Explanation of Benefits.
- Response Evaluation. You must monitor outcomes and adjust your communications tactics accordingly.
Real World Best Practices
Here’s how targeted communications programs are deployed:
Increasing adherence. To increase member adherence to the treatment for a high-profile chronic illness, one organization identified both key challenges and solutions for its patient program. Next, a multichannel communications program was implemented that focused on the patient experience from on-boarding to ongoing benefits usage. This included: a differentiated approach by audience segment; differentiated messaging and channels based on the member’s status in the relationship; a concerted effort to bridge gaps in the experience between the healthcare provider and patient; and a match-back approach to measure program impact.
The outcome: Initial registration targets more than doubled and the tiered, segmented patient experience, based on potential value, resulted in a lifetime cost reduction per patient of approximately 60 percent.
Replacing ER use with PCP visits. In a targeted program, as data is collected and analysis uncovers potential problems, remediation communications can guide members back to preferred practices. This “redirect marketing” requires ongoing usage monitoring and the flexibility to drive differentiated communications. One organization was experiencing significant challenges around some members’ frequent use of the emergency room for primary care, an expensive approach.
The solution: Create a targeted enrollment mailing to the segment most likely to inappropriately use benefits. Location intelligence tools helped create mail pieces that listed the three participating PCPs closest to each member’s home. Depending on family makeup, some mailings also included the three closest participating pediatricians and OB/GYN practices. The result: PCP visits increased 41percent.
Increasing preventive screenings. Another organization experienced poor participation in preventive care by new employees who needed guidance with the proper use of health benefits. The solution: a highly personalized and versioned mailing from the benefits services provider titled, “Why preventive care is important.” This included an easy-to-follow “Guideline for maintaining your health” with individualized wellness guidance tailored to the age, gender, and specific needs of each family member.
As a result, wellness testing increased 25 percent. Also, the continued member dialogue put the benefits administrator in a position of trust and respect from which to steer desired behaviors and drive deeper engagements.
With help from targeted communications experts, tailored messaging in a targeted marketing program can dramatically increase healthcare program effectiveness while trimming costs.
– by Andy Roussel, Pitney Bowes Management Services
Andy Roussel is director, Strategic Marketing, with Pitney Bowes Management Services (www.pb.com). He is responsible for solution strategies for three key vertical markets: insurance, financial services, and health care.