Health plan interest in strategies to improve consumer engagement is on the rise. And for good reason: Engaged consumers have better health outcomes and use fewer resources (see Making Consumer Engagement A Reality and What The Evidence Shows About Patient Activation: Better Health Outcomes And Care Experiences; Fewer Data On Costs). Engaged consumers are also less likely to use costly services (e.g., hospitalizations and emergency department visits) (see Hospital Admissions, Emergency Department Utilization And Patient Activation For Self-Management Among People With Diabetes). And consumers who aren’t engaged in their health care are twice as likely to delay medical care, and three times as likely to have unmet medical needs (see How Engaged Are Consumers In Their Health And Health Care, And Why Does It Matter?).
Our recent survey of health plans (see Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System) found a few interesting developments in engagement strategies. First, there was impressive growth in mobile apps for promoting consumer engagement during the past two years with 39% of health plans using or encouraging use compared with 9% in 2017. And use of recovery and consumer self-management tools increased from 15% to 23% among all health plans. One notable exception in increased use of tools to engage consumers was shared decision-making.
Consumer Engagement Tools
The big finding in our research is in adoption of mobile apps for consumer engagement, which grew to 39% of plans using them. Commercial plan adoption of mobile apps to engage consumers went from 12% in 2017 to 60% in 2019, with a smaller increase in Medicare utilization from 5% to 26%. This consumer engagement is being facilitated with app-driven protocols, consumer and clinician dashboards, educational materials, medication-adherence prompts, and data management tools (see How Consumer Engagement Is Reshaping Service Delivery).
One example is Livongo’s collaboration with Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung to integrate the app with smartwatches in the market. The app helps consumers with complex chronic conditions form healthy lifestyle habits and track outcomes related to diabetes management, nutrition, exercise, and sleep, with real-time feedback for self-monitoring (see Livongo Integrates With Leading Smartwatches; Delivers Personalized Health Insights To People With Chronic Conditions).
Use of web-based consumer engagement tools also increased from 21% to 35% from 2017 to 2019 among all health plans. Commercial plans showed the largest increase in utilization (from 15% in 2017 to 60% in 2019). These tools, which facilitate self-management of care, include online portals for consumers to communicate with care teams, take advantage of educational opportunities, and view and schedule appointments.
Self-Management Tools & Shared Decision-Making Initiatives
The use of recovery and consumer self-management tools also increased from 15% to 23% among all health plans. These tools help manage, monitor, and maintain treatment and recovery with consumer self-management prompts, education and training services, or digital treatment tools. In 2017, 12% of commercial health plans used these tools, which increased to 25% in 2019. Similarly, 2% of Medicare plans used them in 2017 compared with 23% in 2019. However, use among Medicaid plans decreased from 55% in 2017 to 11% in 2019.
We recently reported on an initiative by Banner University Health, which provides consumers with a smartphone app for self-management and enhanced access to care between health care visits (see Making ‘Virtual’ Work – Two Case Studies). The app provides cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, resources, and 24/7 access to nurses.
Looking for more on how health plans support and encourage consumer engagement? Download the report Trends in Behavioral Health: A Population Health Manager’s Reference Guide on the U.S. Behavioral Health Financing and Delivery System.
For more on consumer engagement strategies, check out these presentations in the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- Going Beyond Innovation – Developing Partnerships With Health Plans, Charles Gross, Ph.D., Vice President of Behavioral Health, Anthem, Inc., June 6, 2018
- Improving Quality Through Consumer Engagement In MLTSS, Fady Sahhar, Ph.D., President, XtraGlobex, Inc.; Ken Carr, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS, June 6, 2017
- Consumer Engagement Technologies, Janelle Wesloh, LADC, MBA, Vice President of Clinical Excellence, Innovation and Recovery Management, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, October 22, 2018
- Consumer Engagement: Driving The Value In Value-Based Care With Real-World Case Studies, Rini Gahir, MBA, Chief Business Development Officer, Mozzaz, October 23, 2018
- Mastering The Art Of Delivering Home-Based Services: Changing Management Models & Consumer Engagement, Sun Vega, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS, June 4, 2014
- Using Technology To Improve Consumer Engagement: A Look At Successful Models For Engagement, Richard Louis, III, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; Joel Friedman, Ph.D., Director of Outpatient Services, Center for Family Guidance, PC; Larry Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Grand Lake Mental Health Center, Inc., August 16, 2017
- A Journey: Digital Apps In Care, Amy McDaniel, Director of Business & Services Development, Centerstone; Wayne Easterwood, Chief Administrative Officer, Centerstone, October 22, 2018
- Keeping Consumers In The Equation: Best Practices In Consumer Experience & Engagement, Joseph P. Naughton-Travers, EdM, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; Blake A. Martin, MHA, Executive Vice President & Chief Development Officer, Monarch; Chris Thompson, Vice President of Operations-Behavioral Health, Monarch; Philip O. Toal, Ed.D., LMHC, CET, Senior Vice President, Residential Services, Aspire Health Partners, February 15, 2019
- Innovations In Consumer Technology: How To Use Tech To Increase Engagement & Improve Satisfaction, Ken Carr, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS; Patricia R. Deegan, Ph.D., Owner, Pat Deegan Ph.D. & Associates, LLC; Ron Goldman, Co-Founder & CEO, Kognito; Davis Park, Director, Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, November 10, 2016
- Telehealth Best Practices: How To Build A Successful, Sustainable Program, Matt Chamberlain, Senior Associate, OPEN MINDS, November 7, 2017
And for more on tech-enabled health plan initiatives, join me in Philadelphia at The 2019 Technology & Informatics Institute on October 29 for the keynote address, Leveraging Technology To Expand Access, Enhance Consumer Experience & Improve Outcomes In A Behavioral Health Care Marketplace Dominated By Value-Based Models featuring Alison Nelson, Senior Vice President for Optum Technology, Optum.