Open enrollment and the fourth quarter offer unique opportunities for health plan marketers who want to communicate strategically with members that are high risk for voluntary disenrollment. Decision Point CEO Saeed Aminzadeh took some time to explain just where those opportunities can be found and how to take advantage of them.
Why is Q4 an opportune time for plans to fine-tune their engagement strategies?
The Open Enrollment period in the fourth quarter of every year, and the months leading up to it offer specific opportunities for health plans to engage their members.
First and foremost, members are getting bombarded with messages at this time of year. They are seeing ads in print and on TV from other plans. So health care is top of mind for many people. It’s important for plans to be able to cut through the noise and get their messages across to members.
During this time period, health plan marketers should identify which members are at greatest risk to leave and which members are unhappy with the plan. Additionally, health plan marketers should coordinate efforts with their clinical counterparts who are focused on boosting member compliance with evidence-based guidelines (such as preventive screening and chronic care guidelines) so that communications are streamlined and personalized. The big opportunity here is to get in front of members’ health care decisions and influence those decisions so that they do not leave the plan. By zeroing in on the highest risk (for disenrollment/dissatisfaction) members, plans can lower the disenrollment rate and set the stage to build more loyalty over the coming year.
Are there any specific opportunities around open enrollment?
If plans want members to take specific actions, it’s best to engage with them before open enrollment or at the very beginning of open enrollment. Even though many members may not make up their minds until the end of the open enrollment period, initiating an engagement strategy as soon as possible provides an opportunity to build a relationship and control the message going into open enrollment. This way, plans can stay ahead of all the noise surrounding open enrollment and be more effective in influencing member behavior. The goal should be to balance the risk of disenrollment and dissatisfaction with the risk of non-compliance with evidence-based guidelines so that communications are as efficient as possible, while not over-communicating with the member about multiple, competing topics.
What can plans do to mitigate disenrollment?
Generally, members tend to leave a plan because of a lack of engagement (with their healthcare provider, plan or both) or lack of knowledge of the plan or healthcare system. This can manifest itself in the data as limited physician interactions, infrequent calls to the health plan call center, frequent primary care physician switching, high out-of-network usage and much more. So it’s important for a plan to determine exactly which members are the highest risk of disenrollment and why. It’s also important to know what other areas the member is at high risk (for example, non-compliance with evidence-based guidelines, non-adherence with their medications, etc.) so that communications are streamlined, personalized and accomplish more than only one thing.
Once that is done, plans can prioritize members and begin to reach out to them with personalized messages that address their high risk factors and barriers to engagement. We’ve found that this approach not only yields the highest retention rates, but also enables higher year-end preventive screening and chronic care rates.
This is only a first step to promoting long-term loyalty. As mentioned previously, avoiding a disenrollment does not mean that the member is loyal. Once a disenrollment has been avoided, it creates a forum to create a longer-term goal focused on continually engaging the member and promoting longer-term loyalty.
Is outreach during open enrollment too late/worthwhile?
It’s not too late to engage with members during open enrollment. It’s a great time to reach out and head off disenrollment and to set the stage for building loyalty among members during the coming year.
For member retention to be sustainable year over year, plans need to have a year-round engagement strategy focused on identifying, communicating and engaging with higher risk members on an on-going basis.