The worst of COVID-19 may be retreating into the rearview, but the pandemic’s effect on general population health lingers. Whether it was limited access to care, fear of exposure, or tangential factors like lack of childcare, people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds put preventive care on pause. That has led to:
- Delays in care
- Missed cancer screenings and colonoscopies (the American Cancer Society reported significant drops in cervical, breast, and colorectal cancer screenings in 2020)
- Missed well visits
- Missed behavioral health therapy
As recently as 2022, a survey by the Prevent Cancer Foundation found that 50 percent of Americans had delayed, missed, or canceled an in-person medical appointment.
These disruptions in care decrease the chances of positive outcomes while increasing the overall cost of care. For people already facing disparities in healthcare, the negative effect may multiply.
Encouraging members to take an active role in their health is one of the most important things that payers, providers, health systems, and care managers can do right now. This means helping allay fears related to seeking care and making it easy for people to get back to regular care services, vaccinations, and health screenings.
The good news? People want to re-engage in their health, research shows. To that end, here are key steps care teams can take to capitalize on this opportunity to improve health plan member engagement in their health.
1. Offer Telehealth Visits and Expanded Virtual Hours
While many practices have returned to pre-COVID hours, members can still benefit from virtual appointments when clinically appropriate. The ability to book “off-hour” telehealth visits can be invaluable for those who cannot take time off work or have transportation limitations. From general screenings and behavioral counseling to postpartum support and risk assessments, many preventive care visits are well suited to telehealth.
Expanding access to at-home kits that screen for HIV, STIs, cholesterol, thyroid function, celiac disease, allergies, food sensitivities, UTIs, and even colon cancer can also help payers and providers better reach underserved populations.
2. Make Care Experiences As Easy As Possible
From online scheduling to virtual check-ins, increasing simplicity can encourage members to return to care. With more convenient appointment-making and check-in processes, you can improve the quality of the patient experience and reduce the amount of staff time spent on manual tasks.
The ability to leverage digital offerings, such as a member portal for screenings and surveys, also allows the provider, health system, care team, and payer to gather and take action on data without the need for in-person, face-to-face visits.
3. Personalize Member Outreach
It can be difficult to break through the noise to reach members, but tailoring communications to each individual member is a great place to start.
With predictive analytics, plans can identify members who delay or miss appointments or who have potential barriers to care. Rules and automations can also help make this filtering even more efficient by continuously learning about each member and the channels to which they are most likely to respond (e.g., mailers, emails, texts, or calls).
Some care management platforms, like HELIOS, provide an in-depth, whole-person view that gives you this information in real time so it can be used to help nurture and boost engagement immediately and over time.
4. Identify Health-Related Social Needs and Offer Resources
A care management platform that addresses social determinants of health (SDOH) and individual health-related social needs can empower care managers to:
- Recognize when factors like lack of transportation or childcare may be preventing members from keeping appointments
- Remove those barriers through connections with local resources, services and support
- Receive closed-loop feedback to ensure services were rendered and care gaps were addressed
5. Leverage Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) can help shift the member mindset from reactive (i.e., Emergency Department visits) to proactive, engaged self-care.
Many members with chronic conditions already have durable medical equipment (DME) or at-home monitoring devices such as glucose monitors, blood pressure devices, or pulse oximeters. When integrated with a smartphone app, members can remotely send data (including daily symptoms) to their care team, who can provide suggestions for self-management or recommendations for treatment. In many cases, this can prevent the exacerbation of a condition or the need for an office visit.
With HELIOS, you can leverage RPM data and insights to help proactively identify health risks and alert care managers when outreach is needed.
With tools including educational content, telehealth capabilities, rules and automations, and a member mobile app, the HELIOS platform makes it easier to get members back on track with preventive care. Book a demo today