Harvesting Membership Analytics to Power Better Engagement

KPI Dashboard. Predictive Data Analytics.

All health plans have similar strategic goals: improved health outcomes, lower costs, higher retention, and increased satisfaction. What these goals have in common is the central role member engagement must play. That makes understanding what engages your membership—and executing strategies to capture that engagement—mission-critical skill sets.

Across the industry, the urgency to boost engagement is real. In their survey on commercial health plan member satisfaction, J.D. Power found that these plans are largely missing the mark on communication. Instead, they’re creating noise and confusion that prevents members from engaging in their benefits. According to survey responses:

  • 25% found it difficult to understand terms such as deductible and copay.
  • 23% found it difficult to determine which doctors, hospitals, and other providers were in-network.
  • Overall satisfaction with plan information and communication declined 16 points.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are also struggling to meet member expectations for effective communication:

  • Just 15% of MA plans meet all three information and communication performance indicators: (1) making sure members fully understand out-of-pocket costs, (2) providing health education, and (3) delivering useful reminders for preventive services.
  • During the pandemic, consumers were 3.3x more likely to receive helpful communication from their bank than from their health plan.

Given these results, it’s no surprise that plans want to know if there are proven strategies and tactics that actually work to boost engagement.

There are leading health plans that have successfully improved member engagement and captured valuable insights on effective communication using Clarity’s data-driven Engagement Platform and Accelerate Member Engagement (AME) tools.

Let’s review the methods that worked for these plans and how you can do the same by using data analytics to tweak the delivery and messaging of your member communications.

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Committing to Test-and-Learn

Health plans face the dual challenge of talking to members in a way that resonates with their diverse segments and demographics and keeping messages educational, respectful, and informative. That’s a lot of variables, so clearly a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

A/B testing, a proven technique from digital marketing, applies a test-and-learn approach that acknowledges the individuality of members’ communication preferences and commits to continuous change.

While it may seem like meeting individual preferences is a big ask, the richness of testing is defined by the size of the audience, and that’s a place where health plans have an unbelievable strategic advantage over many industries. The sheer volume of recipients allows for comprehensive testing that can yield invaluable insights.

The power of A/B testing is its ability to measure the effectiveness of different messages. By analyzing data from different versions, health plans can determine which messages have a greater likelihood of eliciting desired member responses, like portal registration or mail-order pharmacy enrollment. And while moving large segments to act is the goal, there’s value in even a single member taking action.

Print correspondence, with higher open rates and extended read times, offers a favorable landscape for testing different messaging approaches. Clarity’s experience in varying messaging by age, gender, geography, and background has shown the effectiveness of using A/B testing to tailor communications to enhance engagement.

For Clarity, when it comes to testing different versions of healthcare communications, the goal isn’t to say one is better than the other. The goal is to say who is each one better for. That’s when we can start to drive participation at scale.

Case Study: Mail-Order Pharmacy Campaign Affects Star Measures

A regional health plan was trying to increase participation in their mail-order pharmacy and had been using the same version of an outreach letter for ages.

Hoping there was an opportunity to boost enrollment by doing some design work on the letter, the plan also wanted to understand how those design changes would resonate with members.

Clarity put together an alternate version of the letter, incorporating proven behavioral science techniques and personalized member messages.

accelerate member engagement enhanced healthcare letter example before and after

The client saw 16% of its Medicare population who received the AME-enhanced letter join the mail-order pharmacy program (9,700+ members). This represented nearly a 1% increase in the overall population now engaged in the program.

Furthermore, this AME mail-order campaign supported improved star measures related to medication adherence. Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) showed a 1% improvement in diabetes medication adherence in one contract and a 1% improvement in both hypertension and cholesterol medication adherence in another.

From a CMS perspective, as well as a financial one, managing chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol are so important that CMS triple weights these measures in their star calculations. By committing to continual member correspondence enhancements using a test-and-learn approach, this plan can expect to see an improvement of 0.5–1% in star measures each year.

Given there is only a 3-point difference between a 3-star and 5-star rating, moving the needle even a small amount year over year will have a significant financial impact for the plan, especially when you consider that moving up to a 4-star rating is worth about $352 per member.

Clarity is proud to say that this client’s work with AME moved such a volume of members to sign up for its mail-order pharmacy that it has had an impact on the plan’s medication adherence star measures. Ongoing use of this practice will certainly move the needle on its star rating.

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Harvesting Member Analytics

Successful healthcare organizations are continuously leveraging insights from a test-and-learn process to craft better communications to send to their members. But they don’t rest on these laurels.

Any piece of member correspondence, no matter how well-founded in data-driven insights, will only be effective for perhaps a year. After that, the competition will catch up, the market will move on, and members will grow numb to the techniques that once enticed them to respond.

The good news is that by committing to the constant improvement made possible by AME, a health plan will know when a communication is losing its potency. The data will reveal a downward trend in responsiveness.

Having a steady hum and engine of insights coming back to the health plan ensures that every iteration of member guides, welcome letters, ID cards, and other correspondence is being created based on the latest data on what’s working and what’s not.

However, before you can begin harvesting insights from your analytics, you need to prepare the ground.

Know Your Baseline

There’s nothing more important in a test-and-learn environment than knowing where you’re starting. To begin the journey to constant improvement, health plans should capture baseline metrics with one or two small experiments.

Each experiment, no matter the size, yields insights—like the difference in response by age or gender. In calls-to-action Clarity has tested, older members are typically more engaged than younger members. And women are typically more engaged than men.

This tells us that there is an imperative to better understand what moves younger members and men to take action, especially in cases where they are the only one in the household or are the subscriber. These audiences will need to be communicated with differently.

For those younger members, we know they often need more help navigating the healthcare system. Data has shown that those in the 60+ category are more confident managing their care than those under 30. That difference in need should be reflected in how a plan communicates important information and available benefits to those cohorts.

This is how Accelerating Member Engagement works. Starting with insights from data, we brainstorm ideas based on those analytics and draft a new version of a communication to test against the original. Once we start to see a correlation between the change and member response, we know we are nudging things in the right direction, and it’s worth continuing.

Here are some of the findings we’ve uncovered from partner experiments that have fueled ideas to optimize:

  • Adding more touchpoints (e.g., a second and third message for important calls-to-action) drove greater participation by men.
  • Using more direct, less emotion-based, and shorter communication also drove better response among men.
  • Personalizing the call-to-action to different demographics prompted more members to engage. For example, if the call-to-action is Get a flu shot, varied messaging might be:
    • For pregnant women: Protect yourself and your child. Get a flu shot.
    • For seniors: Maintain your quality of life during the winter season. Get a flu shot.
    • For healthcare workers: Protect yourself and your patients. Get a flu shot.
  • Including a QR code on correspondence showed a lift in engagement across all age groups. The biggest jump in response to the addition of a QR code was in the Boomer 65+ age cohort, whereas the lift was evident but least significant among Millennials.

None of these techniques are going to be a silver bullet, but they are worth testing to understand what is working and how your health plan can take a more informed and sophisticated approach to finetuning those messages.

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Map Your Data

Location and geography are rich sources of insight because, by the nature of printed correspondence, we have addresses. Nearly any geographic difference yields some variance in member responsiveness. We’ve found that rural versus urban ZIP codes bear insights related to healthcare access barriers, and cultural differences across states lead to a wide affinity for or resistance to certain messaging.

As direct mail recipients, we’ve been programmed to respond to stickers from the financial industry (e.g., to activate a credit card). Similar to the addition of QR codes, adding a sticker to healthcare ID cards shows a lift in engagement across all states compared to a no-sticker control. However, there are still differences based on geography that can be explored.

For one client, we saw a huge uptick in portal registrations from adding a sticker for members in certain states, but less so in others. This is a prime example of how the test-and-learn approach encourages us to respond with curiosity and creativity to what the data is revealing.

By looking at the ZIP codes in states where response was lower and cross-referencing those with publicly available data sets, we identified these as predominantly non-English speaking households. This insight enabled us to further optimize communications in these areas. Using iconography and lowering the reading level have proven to aid comprehension for members with English as a second language.

Another insight we gleaned from location and geography is the impact of proximity to physical care locations. For those member cohorts, emphasizing the availability of telemedicine and extended hours in places where participation is low can help determine if access is the issue. If there’s a spike in telemedicine appointments after those communications are sent versus the control, then it’s likely that lack of proximity was impacting engagement.

Measure Response Time

Response time is another critical metric that can reveal valuable insights. When comparing variations of a communication, it’s important to track how many members participated in the CTA and how quickly they did so. Speed is important because tighter response times indicate stronger engagement.

In one experiment that tested the efficacy of a QR coded sticker versus no sticker, we found an almost seven day faster response when that sticker was included. In the context of open enrollment season, an improvement from 28 days in last year’s enrollment materials to 21 days next year would look like a fruitful January and February, just from leveraging this one technique at scale.

Track Social Determinants of Health

In the CMS reimbursement environment of 2025, plans will be graded on their ability to reduce disparities, and new measures will include screening members for SDOH issues. Plans have the opportunity now to conduct engagement experiments with populations that have greater health disparities to become more sophisticated in how they communicate.

Getting a head start on this metric would be strategically wise for plans, not only to communicate more effectively with members, but also to earn high star ratings and capitalize on the attrition from other plans that might not have done their homework.

An example of how plans can leverage this head start is from work led by Engagys (and cited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance) to improve preventive care among Hispanics. They found that including ethnicity-specific information (e.g., Hispanics are at greater risk of…) and leveraging a male voice are both tactics that measurably improved screening rates among Hispanics.

Sow Data Now to Reap Insights in the Future

Until now, healthcare industry correspondence has been lagging in innovation and capabilities. By taking a cue from email, which has always been performance-based, and adopting the test-and-learn approach, health plans can fundamentally transform the value of their member correspondence line item spend.

Seeing those mailings as fuel for insights, and leaning hard into these practices, is what will distinguish the front-runners in the market from the also-rans. Those companies will be data-centric, engagement-focused, and constantly testing.

Ready to be a front-runner? Reach out today and learn how Clarity can help your health plan combine strategic communications and data to boost member engagement.