In healthcare, there’s a longstanding perception that it’s difficult to get low-income people to engage in their own health care. After all, research shows that people living in poor neighborhoods in U.S. cities are generally less healthy than those living in affluent areas.
Based on NovuHealth’s work with more than 40 health plans and 15 million consumers, we have access to high volumes of data on Medicaid members across the country. So, to examine this issue, we looked at members living in nine low-income zip codes in the Brooklyn area of New York City.
What we found directly contradicts the aforementioned perception about low-income people: When plan members in these low-income zip codes were encouraged to take advantage of incentives for performing healthy activities, their engagement rose 92 percent.
We are in the business of driving healthy activities and outcomes through member engagement, so this didn’t necessarily surprise us. But the dramatic results illustrate that health plans really can get their members to engage in their own health care – even historically unengaged or hard-to-reach members – by offering basic incentives.
The idea is this increased engagement eventually leads to improved outcomes for health plan populations, a vital notion as the industry shifts more and more to value-based care.
A deeper look at the data
In our example, Medicaid members were offered incentives by their health plan to complete high-value activities, such as A1c testing, diabetic eye exams, and annual wellness visits. Those who received communication promoting the incentives were 92 percent more likely to complete those activities.
In addition, a full 41.4 percent of the members who participated in the program, all of whom previously had open healthcare gaps, attested to completing at least one or more of the activities. Again, these figures illustrate how engaging and incenting low-income consumers can help close gaps in care and improve the health of individuals and, ultimately, overall population health.
In a value-based care system in which healthcare providers are paid not based on how many patients they see, but on improving the health of patients and the quality of care, getting traditionally unhealthy populations to engage in their health is increasingly valuable for all parties. We see it as an opportunity for both plans and providers to improve communication with low-income patients, which would have the dual benefit of improving outcomes and enhancing plan performance.
Low-income patients often face social determinants that affect their ability to look after their own health. Factors such as unstable employment conditions and limited access to healthy foods are just two of the social challenges these patients face that can negatively impact their healthcare.
Overcoming such social determinants is a challenge in itself, but NovuHealth’s research in New York City shows one major trend that generally holds true: When consumers — even those with lower incomes — are engaged, they are more likely to take an active role in their health care.
NovuHealth is the leading healthcare consumer engagement company, offering rewards and incentive programs that improve consumer health and plan performance. NovuHealth applies proven loyalty and data science strategies and leverages its deep industry and regulatory expertise to motivate high-value consumer activities. Headquartered in Minneapolis, NovuHealth has worked with nearly 40 health plans and served more than 15 million consumers across all 50 states. Learn more at novuhealth.com.