Improving Quality of Care: 7 Ways to Help Members Re-Engage in a Post-COVID World
Although pandemic-related restrictions and barriers to preventive healthcare have generally been lifted, the delay in care that occurred over the past two and a half years has far-reaching implications. From drop-offs in cancer screenings and colonoscopies to missed well visits or behavioral health therapy, patients of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds severely limited their healthcare use.
While fear of COVID exposure was one of the primary reasons for the dip in preventive care, it’s far from the only one. Even if someone wanted to schedule an appointment, options were significantly limited. The past few years have been full of transportation challenges, provider burnout and/or staffing issues, and epic stress levels. After all, there’s little time or energy left to make and keep appointments for a parent who is juggling a full-time job and online education for multiple children.
Experts agree that the impact will be severe and studies are already pointing to frightening trends. Delays in cancer screenings mean that eventual diagnoses are often more advanced, increasing the overall cost of care while decreasing the likelihood of a positive outcome. And this negative effect will only be magnified for those already facing disparities in care and outcomes.
Guiding people to resume the regular well care, vaccinations, and health screenings that they paused during the pandemic is one of the most important things that payers, providers, health systems, and care managers can do right now. After postponing care for so long, people can be apprehensive about initial visits or tests and unknown outcomes.
Here are a few key steps that care teams can take to get patients or members back on track.
Provide telehealth and at-home testing options
Even though many practices have returned to pre-COVID appointment hours, patients can still benefit from virtual service options when clinically appropriate. The ability to book “off-hours” telehealth appointments can be invaluable for those who cannot take time off at work or have transportation-related challenges. From general health screenings and behavioral counseling to postpartum support and risk assessments, there are numerous preventive care visits that are well suited to telehealth.
Expanding access to at-home kits that screen for HIV/STIs, cholesterol, thyroid function, celiac disease, allergies, food sensitivities, and UTIs can also help payers and providers better reach underserved populations.
Make care as easy as possible
From online scheduling to virtual check-ins, amping up the simplicity factor can encourage more patients to return to care. With more convenient appointment-making and check-in processes, providers not only improve the quality of the patient experience but also reduce the amount of staff time spent on manual tasks.
The ability to leverage digital offerings, such as a member portal for screenings, assessments, and surveys, also allows the provider, health system, care manager, and payer to gather and take action on data without the need for in-person, face-to-face visits.
Personalize member outreach using predictive modeling and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It can be difficult to break through all the noise to reach members, but tailoring communications for each individual is a great place to start. With predictive analytics, plans can identify members who may have delayed or missed appointments and possible barriers to care.
AI can then help take this segmentation to the next level by continuously learning about each member and the channels to which they are most likely to respond (e.g., mailers, emails, texts, or calls). Innovative care management platforms like HELIOS can provide an in-depth, whole-person view to help nurture and boost engagement immediately and over time.
Identify health-related social needs and connect patients to resources and supports
Sometimes, providing physical access to care is the best way to get members to utilize preventive care. With a care management platform that also addresses social determinants of health (SDOH) and individual health-related social needs, care managers can recognize when a lack of transportation or child care may be preventing members from keeping appointments, remove those barriers through connections with local resources and organizations, and receive closed-loop feedback to ensure services were rendered and care gaps were closed.
Educate patients using the teach-back method
When engaging with members or patients, it’s important to clearly explain the impact that wellness appointments, immunizations, and health screenings can have on one’s short- and long-term health. Then ask them to confirm understanding by telling you – in their own words – what they need to do for their health. This verifies that they heard you and increases the likelihood of re-engagement after their pandemic-driven break.
These interactions are also a great time to ask patients whether there are specific reasons why they are unable to take these preventive care actions. If so, consider connecting them to care management and/or other local resources, services, and supports to help reduce or eliminate those barriers to care.
Offer Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) options
Care models designed for optimal patient-centered engagement encourage the use of RPM for chronic, complex health issues and transition points. Many patients 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, patients can remotely send this data (and daily symptoms) to their care team, who can provide suggestions for self-management or recommendations for treatment and, in many cases, prevent exacerbation of a condition or the need for an office visit. RPM options can help shift the member mindset and actions from reactive Emergency Department (ED) visits to more proactive, engaged self-care.
Consider incentivizing preventive care
Many health plans offer incentives for completing assessments, visits, or engaging in healthy activities to promote health and wellness. Such programs provide a wide range of rewards, like gift cards, cash rewards, premium discounts, gym memberships, pedometers, or other health accountability benefits. In exchange, the patient is required to participate in specific preventive activities (e.g., well visits, vaccinations, cancer screenings, blood sugar or blood pressure checks, etc.).
Several of these engagement boosters can be established, executed, and tracked through a comprehensive care management platform. To discover a multi-faceted suite of tools that can support post-COVID re-engagement of your members through content, telehealth, AI-driven workflows, and a member mobile app, learn about the HELIOS platform.