UnitedHealthcare has a track record of leveraging technologies to engage their members in their health through their OptimizeMe and Health4Me mobile initiatives. In addition to these broad based offerings, UnitedHealthcare has launched two programs targeting Medicaid moms, rewarding them for healthy choices throughout pregnancy and with their children.
“Over 40% of U.S. births are to women on Medicaid. We wanted to use technology to empower these women to improve access to appointment information and provide incentives to motivate them to stay engaged”, explains Brett Edelson, VP, Product Strategy & Management, UnitedHealthcare Community & State (Medicaid). “We specially developed the Baby Blocks program to ensure that babies have a healthy start to life.”
"More and more Medicaid programs are looking to financial incentives to encourage Medicaid recipients to complete preventive screenings. These financial incentives have proven effective in the short term but longitudinal studies of other such programs show decreasing effectiveness over time. We created Community Rewards to build a relationship with the member beyond simply rewarding individual actions but encouraged life-long habits", describes Andrew Mackenzie, Chief Marketing Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community & State.
Although these programs target different life stages, both are designed to define a healthy path which informs and incentivizes the member to complete healthy actions over time. This creates awareness for these behaviors and reinforces them with rewards. “Our research shows that these moms feel more connected to the program when they earn points and then pick out an award because it creates an emotional bond. We decided to structure our program this way instead of just rewarding with money,” explains Mackenzie. “Unlike many other wellness programs which give gift cards to patients for going to appointments, we’ve decided to design our programs for ongoing engagement with cumulative points and continuous education.”
The initial awareness and invitation for each program is through a direct mailing which explains how the program works and encourages them to enroll using their computer or smart phone. Additionally, Baby Blocks engages members through Ob/Gyn offices and outreach calls.
Baby Blocks Program
“The idea for Baby Blocks came from our focus groups with pregnant women who were overwhelmed with the 20+ doctor appointments they needed to keep track of during their pregnancy and the first 15 months of their baby’s life. We thought about our communication channels to support this group when one teen said ‘I never read my mail but I sleep with my cell phone’ ”, Edelson explains.
The Baby Blocks Program guides the expectant mother throughout her pregnancy, providing educational information and reminders for essential doctor visits pre and post-delivery. On the program website, the expectant mom sees pregnancy milestones with the number of weeks (i.e. 24 weeks, 28 weeks, 30 weeks, etc) on a baby block and can unlock the educational information as well as track her doctor appointments. She actually earns rewards from enrollment through her baby’s 15 month post pregnancy wellness visit.
Throughout her pregnancy, she sees health tips on her computer or mobile phone, for example: “It can be hard to wait for your baby to be born. It’s best to give birth after at least 39 weeks. Your baby’s brain and lungs are still growing!” After birth, mom receives tips such as “Place your baby on its back to sleep. Don’t put a pillow in the crib until baby is over one year old. Ask your doctor about the shots your baby needs to prevent serious illness.”
“When we were developing this program for the Medicaid audience, we expected most moms would use their smart phones to access the Baby Blocks website based on consumer research. Currently, about 40% of all visits to the Baby Blocks website are from smart phones", shares Edelson.
UnitedHealthcare continues to hear very positive feedback from the program participants:
No matter how many children you have, you can learn something new; each child is different and each pregnancy is different.
Expectant mom actively using Baby Blocks program during her second pregnancy
Life is so hectic with a 4 month old and a 3 year old. I like that the Baby Blocks program is so easy to use and I love the incentives that they offer. I have already picked out new books and toys for Athena
Since the initial launch November 2011, the Baby Blocks program has enrolled 3,000+ members in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The program expanded into additional states October 2012 (AZ, FL, TN, MI) increasing the program reach to new and expectant moms dependent on Medicaid from 12,000 to 50,000.
“We were excited to see over a 30% response rate across all markets. Our program results to date have been strong with 10,000+ doctor appointments recorded and over 1,500 births to Baby Blocks participants, representing a 63% member engagement rate through baby’s birth”, explains Edelson. “We are working on motivating the mother to get her post pregnancy care which typically falls off since she is focused on the care for her baby. We’ve heard some mothers say that with previous pregnancies they only attended some of their prenatal appointments but with Baby Blocks, they are attending more of them”.
Community Rewards Program
Community Rewards is designed to educate and motivate a group of consumers with similar health needs. For their first pilot in August 2012, UnitedHealthcare selected Medicaid moms, incentivizing them to follow healthy habits with their children under 13 years old, such as eating a healthy breakfast, getting 8-10 hours of sleep or simply washing their hands. On the program website, mom can see the checkups and vaccine reward opportunities, learn what to expect at each appointment and can track where (i.e. doctor’s office or clinic) and when this was done. This tracking is especially important for this patient segment who may need another option outside of their doctor’s office to get vaccines.
The program also rewards moms for “Knowing their Health Plan” (i.e. listening to a welcome call, reading newsletters and speaking with the Nurseline). Community Rewards “households” the points so mom can shop with the accumulated points that she and her child(ren) have earned.
“We have received encouraging results to date. Typically with incentive programs, 15% are engaged after 6 months. We are seeing double that, 30% sustained engagement”, explains Mackenzie. Here is a comment from a program participant:
Dear UHC Community Rewards, I want to say that I am appreciative of this program and the incentive it provides to make sure my child is consistent with healthy habits.
“As we review program participation metrics, one big surprise for us is that 30% of the moms enrolled in the program were not invited. Through word of mouth, moms came to our Community Rewards program website and joined which shows us the tremendous value of talk for referrals”, emphasizes Mackenzie.
Expanding Engagement with Rewards Programs
UnitedHealthcare is evaluating potential ways to enhance both programs to reach and motivate members to engage in healthy behaviors on an ongoing basis.
“The Baby Blocks Program will be rolled out to more states this year. We’re also considering extending the program to include well baby visits through age two”, Edelson shares.
“For Community Rewards, we see an opportunity to extend the program on the social front where moms can post their accomplishments to friends and family on Facebook. On the health side, we are considering ways to customize our Community Rewards Program to support high risk populations such as patients with diabetes or asthma”, explains Mackenzie. “By educating and reminding them about what they need to do every day and providing an easy way for them to use our resources as support, we believe that we can see better outcomes.”
Healthcare Technology and Health Plans are quickly learning about the benefits of creating “programs” to drive technology platform usage.
Based on my review of UnitedHealthcare’s Baby Blocks & Community Rewards Programs, I see two key engagement drivers:
Segment Specific: UnitedHealthcare has packaged educational content, health actions and incentives that are tailored to the needs of their target consumer segments. They’ve designed Community Rewards to address a set of consumers with similar needs, which gives them many opportunities to extend this motivational program to other segments of members.
Health Rewards Program: Although many rewards programs are focused on wellness, UnitedHealthcare is working on developing a program to support self-management and care management with incentives for engagement. Their approach will proactively lay out the care path instead of reactively delivering one off ‘gaps in care’ communications. Could this be the next frontier in population management?