‘Tis the Season … for Term Letters in Healthcare

Nothing says “happy holidays” like a year-end coverage termination notice. It’s particularly awkward this time of year, because it overlaps open enrollment for commercial, Medicare Advantage and Exchange members. In this column, we’ll look at five seasonal drivers within healthcare, and how marketers can prepare for term letters, open enrollment and more.

'Tis the Season - For Healthcare Term Letters

3. New Member Onboarding

Once consumers make decisions about health plans, medical groups and providers, there’s a lull period before those choices become effective. Come January 1, your new members and patients will start trying to navigate an unfamiliar system, potentially causing dissatisfaction.

New member lists won’t be accurate for several months, so one-to-one communication tactics such as direct mail will be imperfect. Your contact center, website homepage, social media outlets and provider practices are the best outlets to distribute “how to …” content early in the process, followed by direct mail once lists become more reliable. Your goal is to minimize uncertainty and facilitate the first encounter.

Their first experiences will impact whether they develop a personal connection with your providers. Those who develop relationships are less likely to churn during the next open enrollment or go outside your network for care. This is when you need to think in terms of a member’s lifetime value, and make a bigger investment in onboarding efforts to help newcomers feel at ease.

4. National Health Observances (NHO)

There are hundreds of NHOs during the year. These officially recognized events may be proposed by professional associations, federal government agencies, research centers or non-profit organizations, and they must meet criteria set by National Health Information Center and be recognized by the U.S. Congress, White House or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

These requirements mean the sponsoring organizations will engage in media efforts that elevate the topic in the public sphere. NHOs create natural tie-in opportunities for content you generate in-house.

Because there are so many NHOs, you’ll want to review the official calendar and identify ones consistent with your organization’s clinical expertise, programs, mission and brand. These topics can be leveraged externally as well as internally. Be sure to view the sponsoring entity’s website for rules regarding use of their name and to see if they provide health content for organizations to use.

5. Annual Wellness Visits

More than 44 million Americans are Medicare beneficiaries; a number that will swell to more than 70 million over the coming years. Services are reimbursed through Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS), and the amount of a reimbursement is partially dependent on the patient’s documented health conditions. This ‘risk adjustment’ increases the reimbursement amount when a patient has multiple health conditions that are likely require more of a provider’s time for treatment and care coordination. CMS includes an Annual Wellness Visit for beneficiaries.

This longer-format office visit is intended to foster a better understanding of the patient’s overall condition, separate from an office visit due to a specific illness/injury. The visit allows for more thorough documentation of health needs, which leads to improved care and higher reimbursement throughout the remainder of the calendar year.

As a marketer, you can leverage your communications expertise to encourage Medicare-eligible beneficiaries to schedule an Annual Wellness Visit. This effort should begin in the spring and be ongoing because people tend to be slower to schedule appointments without a triggering health event and the longer appointments take more time to work into practitioners’ schedules.

Think in terms of a nurturing or drip campaign that gradually increases in urgency as the December 31 date gets closer, and be sure your physician network is aware that you are actively encouraging these appointment requests.

In closing, healthcare marketing and communication professionals juggle hundreds of projects and it’s easy for those to pull you away from proactive planning. By incorporating these five drivers into your 2018 planning, you will better alignment your hard work with your organization’s strategic and financial imperatives.

Author: Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.

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