The Who, What and When of Member Education During COVID-19

July 30, 2020 HMS

COVID-19 represents a new reality for the healthcare sector, as well as the world at large. As medical experts learn more about the novel coronavirus, new testing and treatment protocols are becoming the norm. In addition, new information emerges every day about the characteristics of COVID-19 and how it presents in individuals.

Given the dynamic nature of our current environment, leading health plans are developing education campaigns to inform members about what COVID-19 symptoms to look for, how to get medical help and also how to stay healthy and avoid infections.

Different Members Require Different Types of Education and Outreach

Every health plan member is unique. Some are at low risk of contracting COVID-19, due to their overall health, age, or other characteristics. Others with chronic conditions are at high risk, such as diabetics who may already be in care management.

Based on a review of research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found strong evidence that several conditions contribute to increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These include serious heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Some health plans elect to deploy low-touch campaigns for low-risk members. These are often email messages or other communications that include useful information related to COVID-19. Members can refer to this information in the event as needed.

When it comes to at-risk individuals, however, many health plans are devoting additional resources to the creation of high-touch campaigns. For example, members may receive email notifications explaining why they are at increased risk for contracting the novel coronavirus and what they can do to stay healthy. Care managers may also follow up with these individuals by phone to answer questions, as well as explain what actions members should take to manage their existing health conditions and also avoid exposure to COVID-19.

What Do Members Need to Know?

COVID-19 is uncharted territory, so members can benefit from information about a wide range of topics. Your plan may want to design education campaigns that cover subjects such as:

  • Using telemedicine services. The pandemic has brought the benefits of telehealth front and center. Telehealth has been used to screen individuals for COVID-19, as well as to safely provide care and consultations to at-risk individuals at home. Behavioral health professionals have widely embraced telemedicine. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 76% are only providing telehealth services. Despite the value of telemedicine, members may need help through the learning curve associated with registering for telehealth consults and navigating the associated technology. Member education campaigns can help people adopt this new way of interacting with clinicians.
  • Identifying COVID-19 symptoms. Although the novel coronavirus is well-known for its impact on the respiratory system, there are a host of other symptoms that may be early indicators of a COVID-19 infection. These include a loss of smell and/or taste, inflamed toesKawasaki disease symptoms in children and more. Health plans should notify members — both low and high risk — about these symptoms. It may be helpful to provide online assessments that inquire about various conditions that may be indicative of a COVID-19 infection. The assessment results should direct members to the appropriate next steps, whether that is getting tested for the novel coronavirus, contacting their primary care physician or calling their care manager.
  • Finding community-specific COVID-19 resources. Each state has been affected differently by COVID-19. Many have established community testing locations. Health plans can notify members in different areas about what COVID-19 resources are available and how to use them.
  • Reminding members about the importance of preparing for weather-related emergencies. COVID-19 has increased the complexity of annual emergency events like hurricane season. Members in hurricane prone areas should be reminded to take extra precautions this year. This includes augmenting go-kits with supplies like hand sanitizer and face masks. As always, individuals should acquire any necessary medications well in advance of storms that could result in evacuations.

COVID-19 is likely to be part of our lives for several more months. Being flexible and responding rapidly are best practices in this uncertain environment. When it comes to member communications, leading health plans are prepared to share information quickly with members. This ensures that everyone knows how to respond in an ever-changing environment and to do what’s necessary to stay healthy.

 


To learn more about the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has created for health plans, download our white paper — The New World of COVID-19: It’s Time to Reevaluate Your Care Management Strategy.

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