Frustrated Customer

Member Engagement or Member Enragement?

When it comes to a health plan, in the consumer’s eyes member engagement done wrong is member enragement. The saddest part of this story? Oftentimes good intent is what unintentionally drives member enragement.

As it relates to my own health plan last year, I believe that was the case.

I can only guess that the goal was to acquire feedback from patients about the doctors in their network and to know how well—or how poorly—those doctors provided care. A worthy cause! That kind of data could be enormously helpful for a health plan to measure patient satisfaction and evaluate, perhaps redesign, future payer-provider contracts and related opportunities.

This assumes, of course, that the health plan actually gets the data. In my case, they did, but only once.

The method used was what some might refer to as “robo-calls,” an approach in which an automated dialer calls your phone and then an obviously-not-human voice confirms the desired person is on the line and takes it from there. I don’t remember much from that experience other than it was painful.

With six kids, my wife and I are constantly visiting the doctor. After every visit, a robo-call is made, so you can imagine the number of these impersonal calls that came our way. Not answering those calls didn’t work—they just kept coming and coming, thus further driving me away from any desire to participate, while at the same time (unintentionally) draining any interest that I might engage in other ways in the future. Good intent, but not a good result. Fortunately, upon learning the unintended effects of these robo-calls, the health plan is no longer doing them going forward.

Thankfully, not every effort to engage members comes as a robo-call. The list of approaches looks more like a handyman’s belt—filled with lots of different tools. Some of the traditional ones might include member portals, automated texting, and patient satisfaction surveys.

In member engagement, however, before pulling out any tools, first you must know your audience well.

Otherwise, the tool chosen from the belt might as well just be a random guess. In healthcare the danger with randomly selected tools is that, unlike home repairs, where a handyman can experiment with multiple different tools and not offend the drywall, payer consumers have high expectations based on personalized retail experiences with Amazon, not to mention their patience runs thin from lacking healthcare information interoperability and growing privacy concerns.

But if we want even a fighting chance at success with member engagement, we must know more about the individual. More information about who I am, my history, what matters to me. And what doesn’t. 

That’s the starting bar, not the finish line. That’s what it takes to receive my willingness to listen. And probably yours, too.

From there, add a few critical things such as intelligent timing, a consumer-preferred communication method, and a message centered on a consumer-desired benefit, and now we’re talking. That’s a recipe that just might bake a cake.

Yes, it’s a (very) tall order. Or at least in healthcare right now it feels that way.

But it certainly beats the alternative, member enragement. And that’s what member engagement is about at its core: response and engagement. Otherwise, you might as well just call it information sharing. Or maybe even spam.

Most people have too many other priorities and concerns to pay attention to that.