Overcome Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccination: Six Best Practices

February 16, 2021

We are all hoping that life will become more normal this year and the best path forward is getting the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. There is little doubt that the nation’s vaccination campaign is a huge undertaking. The healthcare system must overcome barriers ranging from logistics and access to vaccine hesitancy, pandemic fatigue, health equity, constantly changing information and more.

The good news is that member engagement can address many of these challenges. Engagement enables plans to communicate with people who are in greatest need of the vaccine, including certain racial and ethnic groups, individuals faced with language and cultural barriers, and those with poor access to healthcare. People who are hesitant about getting the vaccine often benefit from engagement efforts designed to help them overcome their fears and concerns.

To empower members to act, health plans must adopt an analytics-driven health engagement solution that delivers specific messages to specific segments of the population. Based on our experience working with leading health plans, we’ve identified six best practices related to COVID-19 vaccine-related member engagement:

  1. Remember that words matter. It’s crucial to clearly demonstrate the benefits of taking action and address common concerns upfront. You may want to stress the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine for the member’s well-being, as well as for his or her family’s, community’s and co-workers’ health. If you know your members’ preferred language, be sure to use it for outreach messages. When developing translations, remember to address the members’ cultures, languages and communities.
  2. Make it easy. Communicate the most up-to-date information possible and share reputable sources like the CDC website, as well as state and municipality vaccination websites and contact information. Think about creating a multi-touch outreach by leveraging a combination of communication channels. This will increase your reach.
  3. Provide the information that members are looking for. Ask your customer service team to identify frequently asked questions about the vaccine and craft your messages to answer those. Put information right upfront about benefit coverage, eligibility and vaccine distribution schedules.
  4. Educate and address barriers upfront. If members are eligible for vaccination, but haven’t made an appointment, find out why not. Once you’ve identified their barriers, address them head on. It may mean dispelling myths about vaccine side effects or you may need to address specific hurdles like a lack of transportation or inability to pay.
  5. Follow up. Use a multi-touch strategy to remind members about the second dose of the vaccine. It’s a good idea to follow up around 15 days after the first dose. Follow-ups increase your reach and reinforce the importance of getting the second vaccine dose.
  6. Take steps to improve reach rates. On the member side, identify alternative phone numbers for individuals. On the technology side, utilize mobile call branding so members will see your organization’s name when their phone rings. Both of these tactics will increase the reach rates of your campaigns.

COVID-19 vaccine communication efforts are often complicated and disjointed. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Plans can play an active role in educating members about the vaccine and how to get immunized. Member populations rely heavily on health plans to guide them and this is particularly true for people with lower levels of health literacy and less access to healthcare services. Now is the time to deploy timely, relevant, multi-channel and multi-touch outreach campaigns promoting COVID-19 vaccines. The result will be improved quality of life for members and the community at large.

To learn more, join our upcoming Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine Communications: Public Health Outreach & Intervention Best Practices.

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