Pacific Northwest Blues plan

NCQA Health Plan accreditation is a vital part of the business model for health plans all across the nation. By demonstrating a deep commitment to keeping members well, health plans can attract the attention of employers shopping for coverage for their employees.

As part of that NCQA accreditation process, health plans must prove that they help their members learn more about wellness, prevention and managing chronic conditions. One way to do that: targeted print publications.

Print publications with content tailored by condition help health plans to inform, educate and motivate. And it's easy to prove that the information was distributed—health plans can simply point to the mailing lists they used.

But one Blues plan in the Pacific Northwest used an innovative approach to these disease management newsletters—with help from Coffey. And the lessons learned here could help other plans innovate, inform and cut costs.

The issue: Very targeted publications

This Blues plan had several different disease management groups—19, to be precise. Each newsletter was segmented based on disease type, plan type or both.

On the surface, this seems like an ideal program. But there was one major problem: Some readers had multiple health issues. This issue isn't limited to the Pacific Northwest. For example, in a 2014 study from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 60 percent of those studied had at least three different conditions. And a full quarter of those studied had five or more conditions.

People with multiple conditions could get multiple publications in their mailboxes, each targeting one specific health problem. Those consumers would have to choose which publication to read first—or at all.

What happens when readers face an abundance of choice? Research suggests people opt not to choose anything at all. When there are too many choices, inaction can seem like the best option.

The Blues team didn't want their members to ignore all of the publications they were sent simply because they were sent too many.

So they turned to Coffey and asked for a new direction.

The solution: Enhanced editorial planning

Content that's created to address disease-specific challenges is important. People with type 1 diabetes, for example, certainly benefit from knowing more about blood sugar testing and insulin management.

But some content applies to people with a variety of medical conditions. Discussing healthy eating, regular exercise and open communication with a medical provider could be appropriate for all sorts of people. Pairing that content with a few disease-specific pieces of information—which readers could overlook or consume, depending on their medical condition—could help to cut down on the number of publications sent. And it could help readership to rise.

Putting the plan to work

The Coffey team worked closely with the Blues plan to identify versions that could be combined. In the end, the print run of 19 versions was condensed to just 5. This new strategy passed through both internal and NCQA approvals.

This Blues plan doesn't measure engagement with content sent. Their main ROI involves NCQA accreditation, so using trackable phone numbers or custom URLs isn't a priority for them. But anecdotal evidence suggests that readers are engaging with this content in a more meaningful way.

And the Blues team has a far reduced workload. Rather than shepherding 19 plans through production, they only have to deal with 5. That gives them more time to focus on other initiatives that could help their members stay well.

Lessons learned: Work with an experienced partner

The success of a strategy like this is dependent on a deep, well-researched library filled with content that's appropriate for a wide variety of audiences. And this strategy works best when there are experienced editors at the helm who can help busy plan administrators make smart choices about the content they run.

At Coffey, we specialize in health plan member communication. And we have the deep library to prove it. Interested in learning more? Just contact us.

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