This year has presented a unique challenge for efforts to encourage wellness visit utilization. As the number of coronavirus cases increased, the number of wellness visits decreased for both children and adults, and there was an impact.
- Immunization rates for children dropped.
- Older adults missed out on preventive care, including medication adjustments, mental health screenings, and flu shots.
Health plans will undoubtedly be taking on member engagement efforts to encourage wellness visits, and there are some helpful tips to consider.
Make a Connection
Of course, the most crucial step to increasing utilization of wellness visits is being able to connect with the member. Plans need to prioritize getting valid member information and then dedicate resources to contacting the member.
Be a Matchmaker
The other side of the connection is verifying the member’s primary care provider, and that means more than checking to see if a provider is listed on the member’s file. Assigning the right provider, one the member will attend an appointment with, can involve matchmaking skills.
- Does the member prefer a male or female doctor?
- Do they live close enough that it is easy for them to see one another?
- Does the member have the contact information for the provider?
- If they have seen their assigned provider before, will they schedule a follow up appointment?
While this may seem basic, finding a good patient-provider match may be one of the most important steps to improving utilization of wellness visits.
Members who are educated about wellness checks are more likely to make and keep appointments. In addition to helping members understand their benefits, it is also beneficial to help them understand the purpose of the visits and what screenings to expect.
Prepare for Success
Help members prepare so they have a successful appointment. Suggest they write down a list of questions and bring it to their appointment, so they do not forget anything. Likewise, suggest they take notes during their appointment with their doctor.
Members have questions about going to the doctor during the pandemic. For in-person visits, members need to plan ahead. They should be prepared to wear a mask, and they should ask who is permitted in the waiting area and the office. Kids might need to be prepared to see doctors and nurses with additional protective gear on during their appointment.
Telehealth may be an option for wellness visits for many, including those members who need to overcome a little bit of apprehension. Telehealth wellness checks may be the answer for members who are otherwise reluctant to get to their annual appointment.
Communication is Key
Plans should consider providing communications and resources that encourage members to get their wellness visits. Send reminders through member newsletters and email campaigns. Utilizing member engagement consultants like Best Foot Forward can drive significant member engagement improvement. Include easy-to-understand information in the member handbook. Make it easy for members to understand that wellness visits are covered by their benefits.
Do not forget that both Medicaid and Medicare members may need extra support to get to their wellness visits. Some members will need help overcoming a language barrier, and that might mean finding a provider who speaks their language or ensuring access to a translator. Most plans offer transportation benefits, but members need to know how to utilize the benefit.
There is no doubt that wellness visits are central in health plans’ efforts to deliver preventative health. Member engagement efforts will be key to improving utilization.