March 22, 2021 – Estimates vary, but according to current understanding, traditional health care in the United States affects 10 to 20 percent of a person’s overall health, with genetics, behavior, and social and environmental factors playing a more important role than previously thought. In order for health organizations to provide the most effective and holistic care to individuals and populations, the focus needs to be broadened to identify and address these factors.
The past year has opened the eyes of the healthcare industry. The transition from a predominantly personal culture to one where virtual nursing interactions are paramount has enabled providers to continue to support patients while minimizing risk. At the same time, it has shed light on the health and care differences associated with individuals’ ability to access care and resources from home. What was easy for some has proven troublesome for others.
The health care sector has long recognized the impact of meaningful and trusting relationships between service providers and members of the health plan, and the impact this has on positive behaviors and outcomes. The past year has only increased the value of these health relationships, especially as the reliance on digital and virtual engagement and management is becoming more widespread in health care.
Enter mobile digital health platforms. When properly designed, these solutions can promote more equitable access to care and support, facilitate and enhance these valuable relationships between providers and members, and pave the way for better health awareness and prevention.
“We know that mobile use encompasses demographics and is relatively independent of age, race and socio-economic status. Since this is such a ubiquitous tool, it makes sense to use it as a channel for support and guidance in healthcare, ”says Dr. Sandhya Gardner, Wellframe’s Chief Medical Officer.
“Plans are increasingly using digital solutions, especially mobile ones, to meet people where they are and provide them with easily accessible information that can improve their health literacy and empower them to become better advocates for their own care.”
Mobile is an obvious starting point for engaging in digital health. However, not all digital health platforms are created equal. According to Gardner, these solutions are most effective when they have key characteristics in support of improved health experiences and outcomes: convenience, adaptability, intuitiveness, usefulness, personalization, and accessibility.
In addition, these traits depend on the particular needs of the individual as they move through their nursing experience.
“Health is a dynamic journey, as people move constantly throughout their lives with different risks, acuity, and needs,” explains Gardner. “Taking this into account is critical to developing a specific, focused clinical program through to a more general health management solution. A successful digital health platform provides a way to support the natural ebb and flow of member needs. “
When a member of the health plan experiences a significant life event, their needs are likely to evolve. Similarly, they are exposed to various health risks and challenges throughout their lives, which can be episodic or chronic in nature.
An effective digital health platform must take these differences into account and be designed for the long term.
“High-risk, high-visual acuity members often benefit from participating in long-term high-contact programs and from solid and active administration and clinical support,” notes Gardner. “Supporting the entire at-risk population requires an understanding of how healthier, lower-risk members prefer to interact with and engage with information. These populations can derive greater value from autonomy and the ability to self-manage their own health. It is therefore important to also offer needs-based and lighter touch interactions that deliver targeted and precise health information. “
With business and school closings due to the coronavirus, the past twelve months have disrupted the personal and professional lives and routines of many people, bringing home the need for health organizations to approach comprehensive care differently.
“Health is not just about medical diagnosis or the needs that go with it. Every member, every patient has so much more to offer. This includes their behavioral health needs and their social determinants, which play an enormous role in understanding and caring for the whole human being, ”emphasizes Gardner.
To effectively support a member’s access to this holistic, comprehensive care, health plans must take into account differences in health literacy and language preference among their beneficiaries.
“Poor health literacy is associated with higher rates of hospitalization, lower resource utilization for preventive care, and higher use of the emergency room,” says Gardner. “When members have information that is easy for them to understand and available in their preferred language, members can more easily begin managing and advocating their own care.”
By positioning themselves as partners, health plans can build powerful relationships with members that simplify health care.
“When health plans communicate with tools members use in their daily lives, there is a familiarity and accessibility that makes the whole process easier. You can build the kind of trust that enables members to ask questions they might otherwise not be willing to ask over the phone or face to face, ”added Gardner.
Empowering members will go a long way toward alleviating many pandemic-related health risks as the US economy opens up again.
“We will see the long-term effects of the pandemic in the years to come,” noted Gardner. “Plans play a unique role – a relationship outside of the four walls of traditional care and access to members so they can proactively identify and reach them to ensure they have the right information, adequate resources and care, and can be preventable Mitigate complications across the board. “
“One of the most exciting things about what we do is that we can provide an educational platform that offers a range of content and formats for members across the population. The key is helping members understand both the “what” and the “why” so that they too can become champions and advocates of the prevention, care, and outcomes they deserve. Knowledge is power, ”she concludes.
Wellframe is working with health plans nationwide to redefine member relationships. With solutions for care management and advocacy, the Wellframe Digital Health Management platform enables health plans to become a trusted advocate for all of their members’ health needs. Learn more at wellframe.com.
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