The findings of the latest Engagys-RISE survey on consumer engagement practices highlight the focus health plans place on consumer health engagement, effective communication channels, and the ways they measure engagement effectiveness. The following column analyzes the key results and maps them to industry trends to illustrate the reasons behind the newer results.

I recently presented the results of the Engagys and RISE Sixth Annual Survey of Healthcare Consumer Engagement Practices at RISE Star Ratings Master Class in San Diego. This annual joint effort tracks the consumer engagement tactics, budgets, challenges, and priorities of the nation’s leading health plans.

The survey results, which were fielded in Q4 2021, highlighted the focus health plans place on consumer health engagement, effective communication channels, and the ways they measure engagement effectiveness. Here I analyze a few of the key results and map them to industry trends illustrating the reasons we are seeing some of these newer results.  

Survey insight: 65.8 percent of respondents reported that member experience was within the scope of their role in 2021, a 13.5 percent increase over 2020.

We’ve always said consumer experience should be everybody’s job, and now it is. It’s not surprising to see that health plans are taking enterprise-wide consumer experience measures to heart given the increased emphasis of experience measures in Medicare Advantage (MA) Star Ratings and the need to drive behavior change that lowers costs and improves health across all populations.

RELATED: RISE-Engagys annual survey: 5 findings on member engagement in 2021

Survey insight: SMS text was the only channel in a group of six that showed an uptick in participants’ reported utilization in 2021.

The 2021 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Facebook’s use of text messages was a significant development for health plans and providers. Based on that decision, automated messaging from health plans and providers were no longer deemed “robocalls” as outlined in the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). While this ruling helped to broaden the use of text messages in health care, the adoption of other digital channels like telehealth throughout the pandemic, led consumers to embrace using different, more convenient communications channels.

Additionally, a multi-channel approach combining SMS text with other more costly channels like call centers has proven to be a great way for the plans we have worked with to boost engagement while keeping outreach budgets in check—another reason why text messaging saw an uptick in 2021.

Survey insight: Use of return-on-investment measurement increased 24 percent from 2020.

For many years, the survey revealed that consumer engagement program assessments turned to measures of quality improvement, clinical outcomes, consumer behavior change, and response/open rates. That appears to be changing as use of these metrics declined substantially in 2021 and use of business case metrics rose instead.

Health plans are under a tremendous amount of cost pressure, and it’s coming at them from multiple customers and lines of business. The commercial market is shrinking and not likely to return. Employers and hospitals are also in a tight spot and have the upper hand. Many payers have learned how to profit by attracting and retaining members in Medicare Advantage, and they are looking to apply what they have learned to the commercial world.

It's encouraging to learn that health plans are investing more time and resources into improving member experience. Today’s members are used to highly personalized and convenient ways of doing business with their favorite retail brands and now hold all industries, including health care, to this standard. By meeting consumers where they are, health plans will increase member engagement, retention, and program ROI.

To view more Healthcare Consumer Engagement Practices Survey results, click here.

About the author

Kathleen Ellmore is the cofounder and managing partner of Engagys, a leading health care consulting, research, and advisory firm.

Ellmore is one of the earliest pioneers in bringing the best of consumer marketing and data driven methodologies to health care.

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