Shared Decision-Making about Treatment Improves Member Experience

By: Linda Sookman, Behavioral Health Quality and Accreditation Consultant at Morpace

Today’s healthcare environment has given rise to different clinical approaches to care, and how healthcare is delivered. No longer is the patient merely a recipient of medical care – today, they are a vocal partner and participant in the initiatives that will help them lead healthier lives. This has made it critically important that healthcare organizations transform their approach to their members, or risk losing ground to more progressive plans.

Within the last half-generation, we’ve seen this patient-centric philosophy result in the creation of initiatives such as patient-centered medical homes, integrated medical and behavioral health treatment, and the incorporation of community resources. All of these evolutions are the result of a mindset that social determinants critical in ensuring that comprehensive treatment plans are developed with the individual’s needs in mind.

This effort has closed the gap between patient and professional. Between February and March 2018, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions reported in a survey of adults that an awareness and use of national quality rating tools, and innovations such as wearable tracking devices, have indeed helped to improve the public’s perception about their engagement in treatment.

At the focal point of all of this new activity that supports the necessity of an individual’s engagement in their healthcare treatment, is shared decision-making – a trend I, and my colleagues here at Morpace, have been tracking for some time.

An article published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, “How Much Shared Decision Making Occurs in Usual Primary Care of Depression?,” defines shared decision-making as “a collaborative process that allows patients and their providers to make health care decisions together, taking into account the best scientific evidence available, as well as the patient’s values and preferences.”

Researchers found that the impact of shared decision-making between healthcare providers and their patients leads to an improvement in members’ experiences, as well as their overall satisfaction with the treatment received. It was found that individuals who participated and engaged in their treatment gained a higher level of satisfaction than such variables as gender, education level, and/or the total visits they received.

The National Quality Forum (NQF), in conjunction with its National Quality Partners Shared Decision Making Action Team, issued a national call to action to support and incorporate shared decision-making as a standard of clinical practice. The National Quality Partners Team recommended applying the following strategies.

  1. Promote leadership and culture. The success or failure of incorporating shared decision-making into a standard of clinical practice is wholly dependent on the leadership of the organization. Strong leadership impacts the integration of shared decision-making into the culture of the organization.
  2. Enhance patient education and engagement. Practice leaders must take an active role in informing members and their families about the importance of shared decision-making to promote their engagement in treatment. This helps keep the health literacy of patient populations at the forefront.
  3. Provide your healthcare team with knowledge and training. Teams and providers should be coached on the specifics of improving communication with members and their families. This will result in a greater focus on members’ preferences, beliefs, and objectives for treatment. A better understanding of members’ treatment needs, and a discussion of treatment options, can nurture mutual respect and trust.
  4. Take concrete actions. Integrating decision-making tools into healthcare team processes leads to improved efficiency when communicating with members. AHRQ published a variety of clinical decision-making resources at particular points during the members’ treatment. The organization recommends the deployment of clinical decision-making tools based on particular illnesses, specific member populations, preventive health reminders, or notifications that may impact member safety.
  5. Track, monitor, and report. Providers should offer an update on shared decision-making outcomes and member self-reported experiences with organizational leaders, clinical teams, members, and providers.
  6. Establish accountability. Such activity should now become a permanent fixture in the practice’s annual Quality Improvement Program and Work Plan. This should include shared decision-making goals, objectives, and processes, and assignments of team accountability.

The integration of shared decision-making into clinical practice is no longer an option. It is has taken a prominent focus in healthcare policy-making, healthcare quality payment models, healthcare delivery, and with healthcare consumers. I personally believe that adopting such a stance proactively can be measured in much more than the bottom line (though revenue growth, too, is a tidy benefit of being proactive).

My colleagues here at Morpace have the expertise and innovation to assess shared decision-making practices and to recommend strategies that will improve members’ experiences. Morpace can partner with relevant stakeholders to design research projects that assess members’ experience and outcomes, and execute a closed-loop protocol to assure integration of results.

If you would like to discuss this further, or have any questions, please contact me at 248-756-0532 or lsookman@morpace.com.

Linda Sookman, RN, BSN, CPHQ, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, is the Behavioral Health Quality and Accreditation Consultant at Morpace.


Improve Member Satisfaction of Behavioral Health Treatment among the Severely Mentally Ill Population

By: Linda Sookman, Behavioral Health Quality and Accreditation Consultant at Morpace

Member experience outcomes are subjective based on an individual’s perceived reality. It is important to consider that members who are severely mentally ill (SMI) may already have a distorted perception of reality due to their illness. So how do you improve members’ experience of behavioral health treatment within this specific population?

In our work at Morpace, we know how challenging it can be to achieve satisfaction among SMI members. Factors such as the severity of an individual’s mental illness, medical complications, and comorbid substance use play a distinct role. The degree of family and community support, treatment compliance, and socioeconomic status are also critical to their overall perception of care.

With these considerations in mind, we can utilize a combination of healthcare analyses and actionable processes to increase comprehensive satisfaction and improve outcomes.

How to Improve Your SMI Members’ Satisfaction, Based on Data

In 2011, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published the National Quality Strategy (NQS) to define a framework for national healthcare policy on healthcare quality improvement. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopted the same approach in defining the value of quality healthcare. If you are one of the many MHBOs working to improve your SMI population’s member experience, I recommend leveraging these ideas that occur within the three aims of the NQS framework:

Aim #1 – Provide Better Care

Strive to improve the overall quality of care by making the healthcare you provide more person-centered, reliable, accessible, and safe. This includes:

Education: In order to promote positive outcomes, your members, caregivers, network, and clinical staff should understand the importance of shared decision-making to improve expectations of treatment, treatment planning, and goal setting.

  • Assessment: Work to understand and quantify the members’ caregiver(s)’ experience in both treatment and planning, while utilizing the appropriate member consent process.
  • Encouragement: Leverage member and family-centered interactive behavioral health self-management tools to improve both member and caregiver’s management of their illness, adherence to treatment recommendations, and positive experiences to stimulate better outcomes.
  • Integration: Explore the level of integration of behavioral and medical services within your network and community. This process includes identifying gaps and developing innovative interventions to address them. It’s also essential to coordinate local community resources into the members’ treatment plan, such as self-help groups, along with publicly funded sources for housing, financial, transportation, nutritional, legal, and vocational training services.
  • Evaluation: Conduct quarterly access and availability evaluations in coordination with member compliance and grievance data to ensure members have easy and timely contact with credentialed behavioral health prescribers and non-prescribers. This should be based on clinical urgency while simultaneously meeting the needs and preferences of the member population.
  • Nurturing: Create and implement a quality-focused culture among your internal leadership, staff, and external stakeholders. These people and parties include network practitioners, providers, acute care facilities, PCPs, medical specialists, pharmacies, and local community organizations. Seek internal and external stakeholders’ feedback on a regular basis. Brainstorm opportunities for improvement in developing innovative clinical and service programs.

Aim #2 – Engage in Smarter Spending

Work to reduce the cost of quality healthcare for individuals, families, employers, government, and communities. You can do this by:

  • Focusing on the voice of your member: This approach generates a 360-degree view of experience from multiple data sources. Conduct member experience surveys, and review member complaints and grievances. Additional insights can also be gained through member and caregiver focus groups, as well as social media within the constraints of the HIPAA Privacy Rules and 42 CFR, Part 2.
  • Considering new service delivery models: Determine which avenues could reduce your organization’s healthcare costs, such as value-based payment models, monthly case rates, integrated payment models, or capitated networks.
  • Refocusing reimbursement of treatment to value based quality care: Collaborate with network providers on outcomes that demonstrate quality and value.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of current programs: How well are they working against the cost to implement them? Evaluate the expenditures and staffing resources needed to efficiently promote population health management, and carry out innovative programs such shared-decision making and transitions of care rather than having licensed case management staff designated for data entry.

Aim #3: Promote Healthier People and Communities

Improve the health of Americans by supporting proven interventions to address behavioral, social, and environmental determinants of health while delivering higher-quality care. Achieve this by:

  • Conducting useful patient analyses: Administer SMI patient stratification analyses and develop behavioral health screening programs for high-risk SMI members as part of secondary and tertiary prevention.
  • Promoting wellness: Incentivize your members to access their community health and wellness improvement programs.
  • Encouraging peer support: Identify Peer Support Specialists within the local community to encourage positive treatment experiences to improve the quality of life for this high-risk, high-cost member population.
  • Sponsoring Integrated Medical and Behavioral (IMBH) activities: Sponsor community health and wellness fairs, educational seminars, or preventive health/wellness focused events.
  • Improving patient communication strategies: Assess the methods and frequency of your organization’s patient communications. Aim to reach a larger circle of patients through text messaging, e-appointment reminders, or other digital communications which are preferred modes by younger members.
  • Considering new health and wellness strategies: Promote wellness programs based on the special needs of the population in collaboration with national or local sponsors, such as NAMI or local community services.

Keep in mind, the more positive your SMI members’ experiences are, the greater reduction in costly behavioral health and medical expenditures you will have, the healthier the member population will be. Morpace has the tools and expertise that can lead to improved member experiences and provider satisfaction. If you would like to discuss this further, or have any questions, please contact me, Linda Sookman, RN, BSN, CPHQ, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Behavioral Health Quality and Accreditation Consultant, at 248.756.0532 or lsookman@morpace.com.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538837/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4780300/
  3. https://pmj.bmj.com/content/79/932/337
  4. https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.201700359
  5. https://www.ncqa.org/programs/health-plans/population-health-management-resource-guide/
  6. https://nrchealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Real-time-for-Millennials-Research-Brief.pdf



NIMH Info on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

By Linda Sookman, RN BSN, CPHQ, Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt
Healthcare Quality and Accreditation Consultant

In 2016, NIMH reported that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the US, and it has increasingly become a more prevalent topic in everyday conversation.

As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, Morpace wanted to share the activities and strategies that NIMH is sponsoring. The endorsement of health and safety programs among your at-risk member populations saves lives, and can support positive member experiences. It is important to evaluate your current access and availability processes for members in crisis, coordinate services early in the members’ treatment and avoid more restrictive and costly services.

As you strive to meet your members’ needs, and in the promotion of safe practices, please let us know if there are annual or interim surveys, access and availability projects, or case management program evaluations that Morpace can assist with.

You can contact me at lsookman@morpace.com or 248.756.0532.


Insight Communities – Driving ROI, Not Just Research Value

Richard Clarke, Vice President
Global Partnerships, VisionCritical

For decades, research has delivered powerful consumer sentiment and opinion into organizations – enabling these organizations to put the voice of the consumer into their decisions with the goal of creating more meaningful, successful, and effective products and services.

Methods and modes have changed over the years, with more and more complex solutions being created to get closer to the consumer truth at an ever-increasing speed. Incredible insight has been (and will continue to be) gleaned from consumers, informing multiple parts of clients’ business eco-systems. However, for many clients and users, research is seen as a cost center within an organization – something that needs to be done as part of a process or something that must be purchased as part of the broader vision of the business. The value of research is not generally associated as being an integral and fundamental part of overall business planning and development.

This is why whenever there is a downturn in business performance, or regional/global downturns (ex: 2008 Global Financial Crisis), one of the first areas to be questioned and lose budget is research.

What is the “value” that research is delivering?

There are many answers to this question, both objective and subjective, however, too few times does research itself get directly linked back to business performance. Ultimately, asking about the “value” of research is the wrong question. We should be asking: What is the “Return on Investment” of research? Because that is what research is: an investment into the organization, and not a cost.

There are many ways that Return on Investment in research can be measured, including:

  • More informed/accurate business decisions – what is the cost savings from NOT doing the wrong thing or validating the decision (risk aversion)?
  • Faster to market with the RIGHT product – how much does speeding up the development cycle save?
  • Quicker reaction time to customer feedback and demand – what is the short- and long-term savings of rapidly reacting to the situation or of knowing your customers’ buyer journey and pain points?

For years, I have been an advocate of research and Insight Communities – the idea of engaging with individuals to answer the business issues at hand with engaged members who, ultimately, also drive advocacy for the brand. Insight Communities should not be considered a research “cost” but rather as an organizational asset that both informs business decisions and creates brand advocacy among members.

Forrester Consulting recently completed a Total Economic Impact™ Study on the ROI of Insight Communities to clients. In addition to the cost efficiencies and speed value propositions of Insight Communities, Forrester quantified the financial value of continually engaging with members in a community. The highlights include:

  • $1.7M business value from increased customer insight
  • 590% ROI
  • $546K incremental profit and $4.7M increased sales from community members
  • 39% increase in average order value and 70% lower churn rate from community members
  • 75% reduction in cost compared to traditional market research methodologies
  • 4-6x faster speed to results

This continues to reaffirm the belief that an Insight Community is not only an incredibly valuable tool in providing fast and efficient consumer insight, but also drives business action that results in incremental sales and profit for organizations.

These are just some of the reasons that organizations are implementing communities. The client stories about the impact of an ongoing Insight Community are powerful and continue to prove out the short-term and long-term Return on Investment. Shifting the mindset to consumer engagement is resulting in hundreds of organizations realizing significant returns and outcomes (click here for client stories).

Five years ago, communities were more of a niche solution or emerging technology but, according to the latest GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (Q3 2017), 82% of respondents stated that communities were either in use (60%) or under consideration (22%). This has led GreenBook to no longer believe that they are an emerging solution but are, in fact, a mainstream solution:

“In future editions of GRIT, it is likely that online communities will also be removed from “emerging methods” now that it is mainstream.” (GRIT Q3/Q4 2017).

Ultimately, these two pieces of evidence indicate that an Insight Community is not only a solution that spreads efficient business insight across organizations but is also an asset that drives revenue and profitability – thereby attaching a real-world ROI to the value of the asset.

Feel free to contact me to learn more about how an Insight Community can become your most powerful asset.


Tactics For Humanizing Data From Connected Devices and IoT To Drive Business Outcomes

By Lucas Lowden, Research Director

Connected devices. Automation. Machine learning. Artificial intelligence.

Just a few short years ago, we would’ve thought we were watching a science fiction movie.

There is much discussion around these technologies – and for good reason! Each are critical components of scalable Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Today, it is the reality of our day jobs. With the support of various functions across the organization, we are actively establishing Morpace’s thought leadership and positioning for what we believe will be the future of the market research industry.

In support of these technologies, the importance of the human element should not be discounted.

There are numerous human interactions that provide crucial inputs to enable successful automation of machine processes. Doing so allows for a broader understanding and application of big data to produce actionable insights for business outcomes.

With several years growing in this space, we have developed a passion about leveraging big data and IoT systems. We have also realized the importance of Big Context – the intersection of man and machine that layers contextual understanding and lends business meaning to these massive data systems.

Are you leveraging Big Context in your business? Are you finding the humanity within your organization’s data?

Join the Strategists on Morpace’s Growth & Innovation Team – Jason Mantel (Sr. VP), Dania Rich-Spencer (VP), and myself, Lucas Lowden (Research Director) – for our webinar from Qualtrics’ Experience Week, Big Context: Humanizing Big Data From Connected Devices” and learn about tactics for driving positive business outcomes. To sign up and view our webinar, click here.

In the webinar, we explore the tenants of Big Context and how we have proven the importance of the human element and answering the question “Why?” for an automotive manufacturer and a transportation & logistics fleet.

We encourage you to reach out to us directly for any questions or further discussion around humanizing your organizations’ data at information@morpace.com.



Patient Experience: When Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

By Debra Fin
Vice President

This provocative statement is attributable to Peter Drucker, widely regarded as the father of modern management thinking. In healthcare, strategy can be devoured by culture’s hunger for maintaining the status quo especially with the relentless pace of change occurring in the industry.

Culture is the way of life for a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. You know culture when you hear hospital employees state, “We don’t do it like that here” or management talks about “our way of thinking”. Culture is the soul and traditions of an organization and, most often, the obstacle to embracing change that focuses on the customer.

C-suite directives to improve customer centricity and focus on improvement of the patient’s experience can authorize CX leaders to gather patient data, hold focus groups and build touchpoint roadmaps. Armed with these insights and tools, operational changes are recommended, communications are built and new services are rolled-out all in an effort to meet the expectations of future patients, improve metrics and increase revenue. Everyone from Administration to Housekeeping waits to hear that patient experience has improved.

Only to find out that the culture on 3West devoured breakfast and is on its’ way through lunch!

Changing the structure, staffing and services of the organization will not suffice to improve patient experience based on patient insights alone. As our most recent Patient Experience case study demonstrates, the culture and values of the organization and its’ employee voices are vital to understanding how to meet the needs and expectations of patients. Equal time must be spent clarifying values, needs, and expectations at both the customer level and at the organization’s human capital level.

Engaging employees is as important as engaging the patient population. Doing both gives you a better eco-system view on how to achieve better service, meet expectations and empower employees to satisfy patients and families. Employees are the engine that delivers on your brand promise by meeting the expectations that define excellent patient experience.

Market research gathering employee insights and reactions to the ideas and expectations of patients can identify the barriers and best practices to delivering on a best in-class patient experience. Employees know how things really work and how to get things done; they can identify where the collaboration chain breaks down in bed scheduling and what families of inpatients really need. Best of all, collectively they have many solutions to improving their patient’s experience and want to be instrumental in creating both better health and better customer loyalty. All you need to do is ask them.

Armed with this 360° view, cultural mores and traditions can be addressed and both the patient and the hospital employee are equal partners in designing the patient experience solution.


Hospital Patients Have an Opinion About Patient Surveys

couple reviewing

By: Debra Fin, Vice President; Jennifer Brown, Research Director

Hospital patients who have had a recent inpatient stay have something to share about the patient satisfaction surveys they receive.

Change the methodology please!!!

How do we know?

Morpace conducts a monthly random survey of the American population 18 years and older exploring consumer preferences and trends across all 50 states in our Omnibus Survey. A minimum of 1,000 individuals from our online panel complete a variety of questions and share their demographics with us. From April to September 2015, we collected more than 6,000 responses and got an interesting viewpoint from the population who has had a recent hospital inpatient stay.

Survey Participation is High

12% of 701 people shared that they had been a hospital inpatient in the past six months. A whopping 69% (482 people) of those had been asked to conduct a patient satisfaction survey! More than half, 53%, completed a paper survey they had received through the mail.  This is not surprising since this has been the traditional way to solicit opinions from discharged patients for decades. Our data suggests that online surveying appears to be growing with more than 20% reporting completing a survey via computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

Online Surveys Are Preferred

Hospital patients are very clear in their preferences of how they would like to complete a survey. If given the choice on what method to use to give feedback to a hospital provider, more than 59% of the total sample would choose to complete a survey online with a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. A mail option garnered less than a third of the preference vote. Moreover, 14% would really rather not be surveyed!

HC Survey admin

Those respondents showing higher preference for completing an online survey are white females in higher income brackets with insurance through their employer or spouse. Hispanic and African American respondents indicated a stronger preference for mobile surveys. When we looked at the 65 plus population, they too indicated a preference for online survey completion versus mail (55% vs. 43%).

Back To The Future….

When we looked at combining response choices for administering surveys before discharge, we saw something very interesting.  Almost one quarter of respondents would prefer to complete a survey before discharge! The most popular choice was still a paper survey with a computer or tablet coming in second. It would be interesting to pilot administering patient surveys before discharge using a variety of methods.

Most of us fill out online surveys for other things we consume, why not healthcare services?  The times they are a’changing…


Mobile Fitness Apps – Adoption Not so Healthy


By: Debra Fin, Vice President; Jennifer Brown, Research Director

Given all the advertising, you would think that everyone, and I mean everyone, is using a fitness or health and wellness app to organize or track his or her every step, pill, or healthcare encounter. Not so much.

In fact, much of that advertising seems to be heard by one distinct segment.

How do we know?

Morpace conducts a monthly random survey of the American population 18 years and older exploring consumer preferences and trends across all 50 states in our Omnibus Survey. A minimum of 1,000 individuals from Morpace’s online panel complete a variety of questions and share their demographics with us. From April 2015 to September 2015, we collected more than 6,000 responses to questions about health and wellness apps and got an interesting view of the population who has used a mobile app.

The NOs Have It

A full six out of ten of all respondents have not used an app for health and fitness activities in the last six months. These individuals are likely to be Caucasian males, 55 years or older and have an annual income of $50,000 or less. They are likely to have Medicare or no health insurance coverage.

HC app use 1

Of the total sample, only 18% are using apps to track their exercise/activity level and/or calories burned.  Those tracking weight (13%) and calorie (12.9%) intake come in a close second and third.

When we asked if our respondents would use a mobile app in the future for healthcare related activities, we got a similar picture. Over half (58%) did not see themselves using a mobile app for healthcare related tasks in the future. A significantly higher proportion of these respondents are the same group that has not used one—older white males. This group is known to be highly resistant to health related behavior change.

The Sweet Spot

So who is using these apps?

Females 18-34 years old are those likely to use a mobile app for health care related tasks. A significant proportion of these women has a household income of $100,000 or more and has insurance through their employer or spouse. These individuals are likely already engaged in health and wellness activities and have the financial and lifestyle means to pursue activities supporting fitness, including smartphones, club memberships, fitness gear, and such.

HC app use 2

The Kicker

Improving health…it is about knowing and doing those things that contribute to better health. It is all about behavior change. If mobile apps are to be a part of the solution to better health, then they have to be attractive enough to encourage wide scale adoption.

You can lead a horse to water…but can you get them to use mobile fitness apps?


The Email Conundrum for Health Plans

Concept image of modern communication

By: Debra Fin, Vice President; Jennifer Brown, Research Director

The Email Conundrum for Health Plans

If you think about how you last received information from your health plan, I am sure it came in a box, the mailbox.

However, when Morpace asked health plan members how they would prefer to receive health plan communications they were clear—Email 63% of the time!

Hmmmm…what gives??

Morpace conducts a monthly random survey of the American population 18 years and older, exploring consumer preferences and trends across all 50 states in our Omnibus Survey. A minimum of 1,000 individuals from our online panel complete a variety of questions and share their demographics with us. From April to September 2015, we collected more than 5,400 responses to questions about health plan information for members. We learned about their preferences for receiving both health and wellness and benefits and claims information and compared that to what we have learned from working with over 200 health plans.

Addresses are hard to get

Depending on the plan type, we consistently hear that health plan member postal addresses are constantly changing. We live in a mobile society. In 2014, more than 28 million people 16 and older changed residence in the United States. When Morpace conducts health plan surveys we must update health plan and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid data records for addresses and phone numbers using specialized vendors. We do this to maximize response rates by making every attempt to ensure we deliver our surveys and reach health plan members by phone.

Even after updating these data files, up to 11% of records are found to be incorrect after implementing the mail and phone protocols! Medicaid beneficiaries are a mobile population and both mailing addresses and phone numbers change frequently. Medicare beneficiaries age out of their own home into a family member’s home or into a skilled facility. Working adults change jobs, changes homes, move away.

How do you stay in touch?

You’ve got mail….

Email addresses are stable contact sources for most individuals existing independently of their owner’s physical location. I moved from Michigan to Tennessee and back again in a four year span, and had the same email address covering three postal addresses!

Email may be the perfect solution for many and health plan members agree. When our Omnibus Survey participants were asked how they would prefer to receive information about wellness and health services from their health plan 63% said email, and 45% said mail. When we differentiated the material type by information about benefits and claims, email remained the stronger preference versus postal mail (61% vs. 52%).

HC survey receive

Respondents in the Morpace Omnibus Survey who preferred email are typically enrolled in Commercial insurance, younger than 55 years old, have a higher household income, and live in the western United States. Those respondents with strongest preference for mail are 55 plus, African American females with incomes less than $50,000, and have government insurance.

Medicare beneficiaries prefer mail as their first choice for both types of materials, although for wellness materials there was not a significant difference for mail versus email receipt. According to the Pew Research Center studies, 61% of Americans over 65 are online. Therefore, we know seniors are using the web. However, the strongest preference for mail versus email was for benefits and claims materials. We suspect that the increased preference for postal mail with benefits and claims items is related to these being personalized communications on issues affecting their pocketbooks.

Yet, many seniors in our focus groups will tell us that they are inundated with direct mail that they throw out since it may not be addressing a need they have right then.

Websites scored at a consistent preference level of 27% for both health and wellness materials and claims and benefits communications. However, our anecdotal information from working with many plans is that members rarely use their health plan’s website. Moreover, we know from talking with health plan members, they often find plan websites tough to navigate. Many, who are digitally savvy, do go to plan websites and cannot find what they want, then go to the phone and call customer service. This can result in a plan representative getting a frustrated member on the line thus creating a service recovery challenge. Dissatisfied members are more likely to rate the plan lower in their overall satisfaction.

So why not email all plan communications?

Email addresses are hard to get. In addition, not all plan members are online. One health plan client let us know that their data system does not have a field to capture information, others cited low response rates when requesting emails, and yet another has talked about legal issues. Privacy concerns and spam emails are often cited as the reasons members choose not to provide their email address.

However, as mailing costs go up and known waste of direct mailed publications increases, the use of email and customer portals becomes an attractive alternative for both health plans and their members. As a result, arming your customer service representatives with training and the idea of collecting emails for future use becomes more important.

By targeting your communications to the channel preferred by members, you can more successfully engage them. Health plan members who can assess information quickly are more likely to have a better experience with the plan and higher plan satisfaction.