As a group, seniors represent some of the strongest opportunities to leverage more meaningful, humanized health engagement, resulting in significant improvements to population health and higher Medicare Star Ratings.

According to over 46 million seniors (people over age 65) in the U.S. were enrolled in a Medicare plan in 2017.

From campaigns that promote flu shots to those that encourage screening for depression, most healthcare providers and health plans agree that more effective, personalized outreach to seniors can improve health outcomes and reduce costs. Programs like Medicare Advantage provide more possibilities to humanize health engagement and improve Medicare Star Ratings.

Here are 5 strategies to improve the population health of seniors and boost Medicare Star Ratings:

1. Leverage Technology Preferences for Population Health

In terms of health engagement, seniors (most of whom are Baby Boomers) may represent an easier group to reach. But improving population health is not as straightforward as it seems when it comes to elderly people.

Health plans cannot continue to use outdated methods of outreach and expect to improve engagement, or Medicare Star Ratings for that matter. Although most health engagement experts agree that high touch methods are the most effective with this population, some of the reported technology preferences of Boomers may surprise you.

According to the Patient Empowerment Network, seniors spend more time consuming content online than any other generation.

Seniors also have strong desires to improve their technology skills. Finally, don’t forget caregivers are often the ones making the appointments. Caregivers’ preferences also need to be considered as a group that is perhaps much more tech-savvy than their elders.

2. Personalize Health Engagement with a Data Driven Approach

The answer to stronger health engagement lies within a personalized, integrated health engagement strategy. Technology needs to be available that can capture and manage analytics from past interactions, current histories, available HRA’s, and other preferences and touch points.

Seniors respond best to outreach that is human.

The right data is invaluable for planning the correct sequences for direct mail and IVR campaigns, or developing multi-model HRA outreach campaigns. Using a data driven approach helps personalize traditional methods, driving up engagement and driving down costs.

In addition, data can help identify segments of the population where caregivers are stepping in more actively. Health engagement experts can then pinpoint where the introduction of new technology like text-messaging and even social media may be impactful.

3. Combine Traditional Outreach with Digital Reminders

When it comes to personalizing outreach for this population, it’s important to note that preferences are not static even though the members are older.

An Accenture study in 2015 reported that seniors who place a higher priority on technology are more likely to proactively manage their health.

This means in addition to taking caregivers’ preferences into account, health plans need to start thinking of ways to capture those evolving preferences. A health engagement platform that gathers and manages data effectively can identify opportunities for major improvements to the health engagement strategy. This may include tactics like digital reminders, or even incorporating Facebook into the mix.

The same campaigns that worked five years ago may not be effective today, as seniors’ outreach preferences continue to evolve. Testing new techniques while retaining those that are still working is key to continuous improvement.

4. Dive into CMS Data to Uncover Opportunities to Improve Medicare Star Ratings

There are some very interesting statistics available from Medicare Advantage Programs surrounding Medicare Star Ratings. Between 2012 and 2016, many plans achieved strong progress, moving from three-star to four-star or above ratings as reported by CMS. But surprisingly that progress has halted, and may even be regressing.

CMS reported in October of 2017 that the overall number of four-star or higher plans is dropping.

Statistics from the organization also showed that the total number of insurers designated with a certain number of stars really hasn’t changed much.

In many cases, this stagnation could be due to health engagement programs using the same methods for outreach, while seniors and their caregivers continue to evolve in terms of technology preferences.

CMS information represents a significant opportunity for plans to improve Medicare Star Ratings while others maintain the status quo. Health plans adopting integrated health engagement strategies based on data obtained and managed by robust platforms may have a important window right now to jump ahead in their category.

5. Give Seniors Your Focused Attention

Beyond the opportunities for improving Medicare Star Ratings, our seniors deserve the best when it comes to encouraging behavior that contributes to wellness. Improving overall population health is important not only for them, but for younger generations also.Our older family members and friends play an important role in the relationships that sustain our own sense of well-being, if not our happiness, as humans.

Census information reports that nearly one-third of seniors over the age of 65 live alone.

In these cases, health plans may even be a senior’s best advocate. Effective health engagement for seniors on their own may not only be vital to improving population health, it could be life-saving.