When intrinsic motivation isn’t enough, a different approach to close gaps and increase satisfaction is needed. We know that rewards are effective, particularly with Medicaid members, but how should we use them to successfully move people to action?

This post is an abbreviated version of a much larger conversation from Icario’s recent appearance on a Shared Purpose Connect roundtable hosted by Eric Glazer. For more insights, view the on-demand recording “Discover the Secret to Building a Successful Medicaid Rewards Program”.

To talk about what healthcare organizations can do to build a winning Medicaid rewards program, Icario participated in a conversation with a group of healthcare industry leaders to talk engagement, motivation, and that magic number that sparks action. Here are the 5 key takeaways.

#1—Zip Code Over Genetic Code

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—a members’ zip code is a better indicator of their health than their own genetic code. Understanding an individual’s unique circumstances is often more powerful than understanding someone clinically. 

When you know someone personally, you understand their barriers, their motivations, their values—all of which can help determine what will motivate them to take action.

#2—Personalization is More Than a Buzzword

As consumers, Amazon taught us the power of personalization and now people are applying this expectation to all aspects of life, including their healthcare options. Today, the healthcare industry is just catching up. As a result, the lens of member experience and expectation has changed.

As we’re working to solve complex healthcare engagement problems, never let the individual get lost along the way. In order for personalization to thrive in healthcare, we can never lose sight of who we’re doing this for—real, living, breathing individuals.

#3—Words Matter, Use Them Wisely

Thinking beyond educational content and identifying key messages and themes will prompt higher rates of health action. What is often more motivating than rewards & incentives are words. Rewards and incentives are a tactic, but we can never forget how important the words and language used are. Words matter.

Speaking of language, just because someone speaks English doesn’t mean it’s their preferred or first language. And, once language preferences are identified, it’s not enough to simply translate your communications. Messages that use the appropriate language structure creates far more trust that they’ll engage with it at a much higher rate.

“Think about how you are communicating with people. As a member receiving communications, they may be thinking ‘Attempting to motivate me to take action is disincentivizing me because all you are doing is pointing out all of the barriers that are in my way to get the care I clearly need.’ It requires more than just well-timed messages, it requires real solutions to overcome these big barriers.”


Cory Busse

Vice President, Engagement Strategy & Sales Enablement

#4—It All Comes Down to Trust

To make a real impact, focus on connecting with members on a community level. Because we know that zip code is important, personalization is key, and language matters, we can use this to our advantage to make meaningful connections and build lasting relationships based on trust.

A great example would be to bring a provider into the community that members identify with. This could mean a visit with a doctor that speaks their first language or leveraging something that feels familiar that resonates.

For example, during our roundtable conversation, Daniel Weaver from Gateway Health spoke about a partnership with EMT services that leveraged paramedics in a community health worker capacity to bridge healthcare gaps in the community and decrease emergency department visits. He attributed the success of the program and decrease in ED visits to trust. For more information on this program, listen to the on-demand webinar.

#5—Surprise…Rewards & Incentives Work!

Experience has shown us time and time again that reward programs work. It boils down to delivery, presentation, and options. Offering Medicaid members a choice in their reward has proven to be motivating. For example, giving members a selection of rewards, and then the choice of how to spend it gives the member back empowerment and agency.

We’ve also seen success offering incentives throughout a healthcare journey, helping people stay connected to complete a survey or moving them towards a visit with a healthcare provider when needed. Sometimes the rewards amount could be as little as $5, as long as the value is presented to the member.

In the end, health plans must understand each member’s unique challenges, habits, and motivations to address their needs successfully. It’s no secret that rewards work with Medicaid members, it’s about how you put them to use for each individual that matters.