Providers and payer organizations must now think “customers,” not “patients,” with the goal of creating continued, unbroken relationships that foster long-term health and wellness. The evidence for the benefits of enhanced customer engagement is compelling. Increased consumer satisfaction and loyalty, improved acquisition and retention rates, lower administrative costs and improved profitability are just the beginning.

The goal is for us to deliver personalized communications that address a member’s specific barriers to engagement. That requires capturing our customer preferences and historical success rates, making enrollment and continued engagement feel effortless. The bottom line for better member engagement is the potential for improved health outcomes.

Trend #1: Learning from the Retail World

Healthcare customers now directly control $330 billion annually in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Their choices affect 61% of all healthcare spending. Healthcare consumerism demands a model that maps more closely to that of a retail experience. We have seen that providers and payers can learn a lot from marketing and customer support methods embraced by retail marketers.

Retailers, particularly digital marketers, employ strategies and tactics based on what’s known as the customer journey. Consumer research conducted in multiple business sectors by analyst firm McKinsey shows convincingly that journey satisfaction scores are two times better than touchpoint satisfaction scores in predicting business outcomes. Completing that journey requires continuous customer engagement throughout the process.

Our industry still has a few lessons to learn in terms of better member engagement, and the steps to get there. We have to deliver the right member experience, in the right way and at the right time.

Trend #2: Personalizing the Member Experience

We know selecting the right outreach method depends on how critical the goals are and the sense of urgency required.

The days of the telephone serving as the primary customer contact method are over. Older populations may respond to phone calls, but real-world evidence strongly suggests Millennials and other young customers will never answer their phones for anything other than texts. Email still delivers mixed results. Once again, retailers can provide some clues as to what will work, and when.

Trend #3: Using Promotions & Rewards

Many member engagement programs have found success with member rewards and incentives like low-cost coupon books and discount cards from unrelated merchants – Amazon, book stores and restaurants, for example – and services have proven effective for continued engagement beyond enrollment.

Trend #4: Engaging with Content Marketing

Members need and want guidance that is personalized, easy to understand and from a trustworthy source. We must empower customers to make good decisions for managing their health and the cost of their healthcare through guidance that is accurate, meaningful and accessible. Numerous retail surveys show that more than 60% of customers researched their purchases on the Web first. The healthcare member experience is also becoming more “self-service” in terms of evaluating provider and payer options. Mapping content to that member experience can be a powerful tool in building engagement, and member retention.

Trend #5: Leveraging High Touch Healthcare

Healthcare is an interesting industry – on the one hand, members and patients want to learn as much as they can on their own. On the other, when care is being provided, they require high touch, empathetic care. We’ve found that payers and providers have to create integrated strategies that recognize the need for self-direction and yet still provide support based on each member’s needs and preferences.

Trend #6: Fostering Wellness within Member Communities

Population health management data shows us that enormous cost savings are achieved when reaching members and patients much earlier in the screening process. The right data can enable payers and providers to view patients as whole individuals and understand their concerns, leading to much earlier engagement, saving costs and, ultimately, saving lives. Traditionally, different provider networks don’t share patient health record data, and this isn’t changing anytime soon. However, other kinds of shareable data – patient demographics, diagnosis codes, dates of service and the cost of services from all care providers, including external entities – can help create strong member engagement platforms and predict treatment costs.

Trend #7: Embracing Transformational Technology

To create a more personalized yet comprehensive view of members and patients, and at the same time not losing site of their desire for careful, individual support, we have a wealth of new technology at our disposal. Providers and payers who take on the integration challenge gain the use of remarkably powerful tools: Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Analytics turns massive quantities of raw data into formats humans can use for the basis of any number of actions. Big Data Analytics can generate a full, detailed picture of individual customer health as well as payer and provider organizational operations. AI can help organize massive volumes of random data and automate mundane tasks. Although a new Forrester report shows that use of healthcare analytics lagged in 2016, it is still growing.