Novu Health Engagement Blog

Want Consumer Engagement in Health Care? Set Goals and Use Data to Obtain Them

Jordan Mauer

NovuHealth CEO Addresses AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Health Conference

Health plans need to adopt the data-driven, goal-focused, personalized customer engagement models of retail if they are to be successful in a world in which quality and risk management drives business. That was the message NovuHealth CEO and Co-Founder Tom Wicka delivered Wednesday at the AHIP Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum in Chicago.Download the Deck

AHIP Consumer Experience and Digital Health Forum Event Logo



For instance, Tom told participants, airlines don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach with their loyalty programs. Instead, they pour the bulk of their resources into their frequent fliers. Health plans need to take the same approach—targeting their rewards and engagement programs to the 20% of “frequent fliers” responsible for 80% of medical costs.  


The retail industry also sets clear and measurable goals, Tom said, something often missing in the clinically focused world of health care.


For instance, when NovuHealth worked with a large Medicare Advantage plan to improve engagement and adherence among its diabetes population, we set several specific primary and secondary objectives, shown below.


Current Performance

Program Objectives

1.6% activation rate

10% activation rate

26% engagement rate

50% engagement rate

0.4 activities per member

2.0 activities per member

3.0 Star Rating

4.0 Star Rating


We also identified the primary behaviors we wanted members to complete: an annual wellness visit, eye exam, routine HbA1c testing, and regular kidney monitoring. But we went a step further. We also identified the secondary behaviors we expected, behaviors that provided a “halo effect” to benefit the plan. In this area, we expected members to become digitally engaged, complete surveys, participate in online group support and improve their perception of the brand.


After setting clear objectives, we employed the four key components of success that are integral to all our efforts: analyze and segment the target members; use behavioral science to understand what motivates and activates them; choose the right platform(s) with which to engage them; and continually measure our progress and adjust our approach.

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To illustrate how this works, Tom focused on an individual member and the steps NovuHealth took to improve her diabetes management.


Engaging a plan member: analyze and segment, use behavioral science, choose technology platforms to engage, and measure member engagement


We started with her basic demographic information. “Susan” is a 67-year-old married woman who works part time, has a high school education, owns her own home in a rural neighborhood, and has a household income less than $40,000. She owns a smartphone, engages in online activity at a medium level, has children, and is registered to vote. Why is that last item important? Because people who register to vote are more likely to become engaged in other activities.


We also identified the barriers preventing her adherence: convenience, complexity and fear. 


This data helped us determine the frequency of our communication, the best channels for communication, and the most appropriate incentive amounts. Based on our proprietary algorithms, we were able to determine that there was a medium cost to move her up on the activation scale but that the result would be worth the investment.


The first step in any activation campaign, Tom explained, is to get the member to simply connect. To do that, he said, it’s important to keep the initial interactions simple, target the consumer’s preferred channel, use multiple touches and messages, and start with extrinsic incentives that, eventually, should become intrinsically driven as the consumer moves from activation to engagement.


It is also critical that the plan engage with the consumer on a regular basis and not simply disappear once they engage, Tom said. “The market expectation that you can mail a postcard once a year and everyone will get a colonoscopy makes no sense at all,” he said.


As the months passed, Susan increased her engagement, moving from a transactional relationship with the health plan to a trusting one, from a one-way relationship to an interactive one, even joining a plan-sponsored online support group.


There were more than 200,000 “Susans” in the Medicare Advantage plan highlighted above. Personalizing our approach to these members based on where they were in the engagement journey enabled our rewards and engagement program to exceed original objectives.


Instead of a 10% activation rate, we reached 14%. We doubled the expected 40% engagement rate to 82.5% and our members participated in an average of 2.8 activities each, 40% over our goal.


Perhaps most important: Our client received a 4.0-Star rating and engaged members had a 17% higher renewal rate than those who didn’t engage.


Data. Goals. Personalization. Engagement Strategy. Together, as Tom concluded, they work.

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NovuHealth is the health care industry’s leading marketing and behavior change platform, helping health plans improve quality ratings, manage risk and drive engagement.