In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging and communicating with your members has never been more important. Health plans have a unique opportunity to connect members with the information, resources, and benefits they need to take care of their physical and mental health during these uncertain times.

And with the situation evolving so rapidly, your members run the risk of being confused by outdated, inaccurate, and outright bad information. So, how can you best take care of your members now? How can you reassure them that you’re there in a time of crisis?

Here are 5 best practices for engagement and communication to help your members stay healthy and informed as they navigate the days ahead.

#1—Communicate to All, but Prioritize High-Risk Members

When it comes to emergency communications, you want to reach as many people as possible. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to communicate to high-risk populations—especially seniors, your mom & baby population, and those with pre-existing conditions—as well as those living in regional hot spots.

Focus in on these populations, while ensuring all members have access to critical COVID-19 information, resources and support. Promote in-home visits for select members if appropriate, and nurse lines and telehealth tools for all.

#2—Use a Multi-Channel Communications Strategy

Many plans use just one or two channels for member communications, such as outbound mail and a call center. But different members prefer different channels, so there’s a risk those plans aren’t reaching as many members as possible.

Instead, use a multi-channel communications strategy to reach members where they are and in the channels they prefer. To communicate with members quickly and efficiently, use quick-to-implement channels like email and IVR, as well as texting and direct mail—the preferred channels for many Medicare members.

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#3—Create Easy-to-Understand Content

While all member communications are important, information about COVID-19 prevention measures, symptoms, and testing options are critical. If members can’t understand what they’re being asked to do or why it’s important, they might inadvertently neglect to take action, and their health could be endangered as a result.

So it’s essential to communicate simply and clearly. Explain complex medical terms in plain language—avoid clichés, idioms, and slang—and use design to help readability. Above all, don’t just tell members what to do—tell them why it matters.

If your goal is to educate members about social distancing, for example, don’t just prompt them to stay home—explain why that’s important and the impact it can have on their health.

#4—Be Honest and Communicate Frequently

During times of crisis and chaos, your members need straightforward, frequent communication from trusted sources, including your health plan. Be sure to provide them with timely access to accurate information, critical services, and resources to keep them safe and connected, and reassurance that you will support and protect them.

Members may be facing a great deal of uncertainty right now, so this is your opportunity to be a consistent touchstone and reliable source of expert guidance.

#5—Don’t Forget About the Mental Health of Your Members

While keeping your members physically healthy may be your first priority in times like these, don’t forget about their mental health. With so many people, especially seniors, dealing with seclusion at the moment, it’s important to help members feel connected.

Consider sharing tips on how to avoid stress, social isolation, and loneliness, as well as ways to stay engaged with the broader community. In a time of social distancing, your plan can serve as a valuable point of connection, offering support to those who may feel alone.