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Healthcare Organizations Expect to Focus on Consumer Engagement

Healthcare organizations are increasingly focusing on consumer engagement, highlighting the critical role of the patient in value-based healthcare.

Consumer engagement is the name of the game for health payers and healthcare industry stakeholders, according to a recent report commissioned by Change Healthcare and the Health Care Executive Group (HCEG).

The 8th Annual Industry Pulse report summarizes insights from over 2,000 healthcare leaders, half of whom are senior vice president level or higher. These individuals revealed their current and future strategies for improving healthcare, revealing three central themes: transformation of care, population health management, and consumer engagement.

These elements all underscore the healthcare industry’s shift to value-based healthcare. With respect to patient engagement, healthcare professionals are working to transform passive patients into engaged partners in care. Additionally, organizations are working to address the social determinants of health and meet patient health needs downstream.

"Healthcare organizations are transitioning from negative to positive incentives to influence consumer behavior much faster than most would expect,” David Gallegos, senior vice president of Consulting Services at Change Healthcare, said in a statement. “Payers are also taking aggressive steps to advance value-based care and crack the code to successful consumer engagement."

Health payers, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations are working to first identify their consumers’ needs. Seventy-one percent use digital and paper surveys to do so, while 56 percent hold focus groups, 51 percent rely on social media engagement, 37 percent conduct phone interviews, and 26 percent hold town hall events.

While these strategies may yield some insights about the patient voice, the report authors noted that there are some missed opportunities because many of these strategies require patient opt-in. A patient might simply choose not to complete a survey or answer the phone when the insurance company calls.

Organizations are also utilizing marketing strategies to drum up healthcare consumer engagement.

Most organizations deploy patient education materials, while 63 percent tap social media outreach, 59 percent use health literacy materials, 56 percent utilize language translation tools, 53 percent work to identify patients’ communication preferences, 48 percent employ wellness coaches, and 46 percent create custom content.

The report also identified some emerging patient engagement strategies, including telehealth options (36 percent), healthcare navigators (27 percent), and instance messages or chat bots (12 percent).

The strategies healthcare organizations use to transform passive patients into active ones are also changing, the report noted. While many healthcare payers previously used high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to encourage patients to take more ownership of their health, only 3.4 percent of organizations said they think this strategy is still effective.

Instead, many organizations said HDHPs create care avoidance, with patients neglecting to access care because high healthcare costs are a barrier.

“Healthcare is transitioning from negative to positive incentives to influence consumer behavior faster than most expect,” the report authors explained. “Payers are also taking aggressive steps to advance value-based care, and crack the code to successful consumer engagement.”

Instead, 25 percent of healthcare players are offering incentives to patients, and 24 percent have established patient-provider partnership programs.

Organizations are also leveraging new healthcare trends such as health literacy promotion (14 percent), risk assessment programs (12 percent), mHealth and gamification (9 percent), and price transparency tools (8 percent). These options are helping to empower patients both when they are selecting their care and during the care encounter.

Healthcare organizations are also increasingly acknowledging the importance of the social determinants of health. Over 80 percent of health payers stated that they are incorporating the social determinants of health into their patient outreach programs.

Forty-two percent said they are creating community health and benefit programs, 34 percent are integrating health data with social determinant data (finances, race, and geography), 33 percent use other social data during risk assessments, 27 percent integrate social determinants of health into clinical workflows, and 21 percent train clinicians to identify these factors and use check-in lists for screenings.

This overall trend of addressing the social determinants of health underscores the role that patient care plays in value-based healthcare. The industry is increasingly adopting principles of value-based healthcare and caring for the whole patient outside of the four walls of the hospital is essential to that.

“The issue of social determinants of health has become part of every conversation around improving care quality while lowering costs. This concept recognizes that not every healthcare problem can be addressed with a prescription pad or a hospital procedure,” the report says.

“In a value-based model that emphasizes promoting health over delivery of medical services, healthcare organizations have an incentive to consider providing transportation, helping patients identify or secure affordable transport, coordinating ride sharing, or other potentially effective solutions for such cases,” the report concluded.

Also noted in the report are trends in health IT adoption, security concerns, data analytics use, and organizational adoption of various value-based payment models.

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