- Health plans looking to connect with their members on an mHealth platform these days face a challenge similar to any parent with teen-aged children: The more digital options, the better the chance of making eye contact. But do all those channels make for better connected health?
Welcome to the world of point solution fatigue.
With consumers looking to connect on smartphones, tablets, laptops or home computers – or all of the above – payers are being forced to expand their digital health platform. Recent surveys have suggested more than half the nation’s health plans are managing between four and nine digital point solutions, and almost 90 percent of the plans surveyed expect to have a digital health management platform in place within two years.
“The pressure’s coming from all sides,” says Dr. Elaine Goodman, the Associate Chief Medical Officer at Wellframe, one of dozens of digital health companies that helps payers map out their mobile health strategy. “Health plans need a more comprehensive approach to a patient’s health needs.”
Not to mention the myriad of possible and practical connections between the patient and the healthcare provider, who also may or may not be tech-savvy.
“It’s not an easy task,” says Goodman.
To map out that digital communications strategy, Goodman offers a few important rules of the road.
Create a plan that is flexible enough to accommodate different communication channels, but which can still be managed on one platform. Don’t rule out any channel – such as mailings or phone-based contact – because that may still be the channel of choice for some members, Goodman says, but don’t separate those members from the rest. That may create silos, making it all the more difficult to integrate care plans.
Look beyond the clinical factors when defining engagement. Roughly 80 percent of health outcomes are determined by non-clinical factors like environment, economic concerns, even access to the broadband or transportation, Goodman notes. Create a plan that addresses all of these challenges – and one that can be molded to handle new challenges as they arise.
Be omnivorous and picky. Especially when creating a population health platform, develop a communications strategy that connects with members on all available platforms, most notably the platform of their choice (and that doesn’t always mean that seniors prefer phone calls or younger members prefer e-mails). Just as importantly, Goodman says, avoid overwhelming members with messages or making them feel like they’re being bombarded with suggestions.
Measure for improvement. Today’s mHealth platforms measure value in different ways, says Goodman, so be prepared to analyze not only quality and cost outcomes, but also patient engagement and the ability to identify and address gaps in care. Create an avenue for consistent collection of data, she adds, and be prepared to modify that approach for new tools – such as wearables.
New technology “can become real challenging real fast,” says Goodman. “The mHealth market is really diverse right now, and it can be very difficult to manage so many things in tandem. You need to be able to integrate” devices or platforms without throwing everything else off track.
“Select point solutions that integrate well,” she concludes. “The real approach (for both payers and providers) is that you need an overarching platform.”