Making an Impact on CAHPS Scores, Part 2

December 9, 2015

Care Team

In a previous blog we discussed how healthcare organizations can use member outreach campaigns to improve the member experience and potentially make a quick impact on CAHPS and Medicare CAHPS Survey scores. The previous blog provided guidance and insight surrounding telephone outreach. In this blog, we will focus on mail, IVR, and email member outreach.

Mail outreach

Mail outreach allows for lengthier, more in-depth messaging and can be used to promote positive aspects of the healthcare organization. It can be used to emphasize the plan’s recent achievements and strengths, and to help members feel good about selecting the health plan. Mail outreach can be an effective way to inform members that the CAHPS or Medicare CAHPS Survey will be forthcoming, why it is important for members to respond, and how past results have been used by the plan to initiate improvements.


One example of an effective mail outreach program is a newsletter or page in a member magazine. Plans can thank members for their participation in the plan and promote the positive attributes of the plan, such as Star Ratings, NCQA accreditation level, national or local awards received, commendations, community service, etc. This type of communication can make members more knowledgeable about the plan and help them to feel good about selecting your plan.

Wellness Calendars

Wellness calendars are also popular with members. An annual calendar can include not only holidays, but screening reminders targeted to national heart month (February), colorectal cancer awareness month (March), breast cancer awareness month (October), and so forth.

Member education

Mail can also be an effective tool for educating members. A mail outreach program on the proper use of the pharmacy benefit or the process for choosing a provider within the network can provide valuable insight for members. The plan can identify the areas their members find most challenging and consider a mail outreach program to address these challenges by educating members.

Postcards and reminders

Mail campaigns can be targeted to specific groups of members. For examples, diabetic members may be reminded that they need kidney function tests, A-1-C lab tests, cholesterol screenings, and eye exams.

Postcards with screening and preventive care reminders or promoting wellness services also make a positive impact on members. These can include: flu shot, mammogram, and colonoscopy reminders, promotion of fitness, smoking cessation, and weight-loss programs covered by the plan.

IVR outreach

IVR can be an effective way to reach a large number of members in a short period of time. This approach is especially good for non-complex communications that reach a large number of members, such as screenings and preventive care reminders or awareness and encouragement to use wellness programs. IVR is best received when it sounds like a human voice with normal speech cadence, intonation, and phrasing.

IVR outreach calls can be designed to reach a large group of members or a targeted subset. IVR can be used to make preventive care screening calls such as flu shots, mammograms, or colonoscopy reminders. It can encourage the use of smoking cessation, weight-loss, the use of fitness programs, or other wellness programs covered by the health plan. IVR can be effective for brief, fall-prevention information calls, suggesting that members discuss falls with their personal physicians. Diabetic members can be reminded that they need a kidney function test, an A-1-C lab test, a cholesterol screening, an eye exam, or a foot exam.

Email outreach

Emails can be faster and less expensive than mail or IVR messaging.  However, emails are less effective when the content requires in-depth, lengthy treatment, particularly among members who rely on their smart phones for emails. While email communication can be fast and inexpensive, it depends on the health plan’s possession of member email addresses, an area where most plans continue to lag. The email approach also requires member access to and acuity with technology, which may present barriers for certain members. Email communications also require opt-in or permission from the member.

Campaigns that are most effective by email include screening and test reminders, wellness benefit promotions, and short messages about benefits or plan changes.

Other outreach considerations

In selecting the best communication channel for any outreach program, health plans should consider the characteristics of various segments, or subpopulations, of their members. One channel may not be optimal for all segments. For example, email outreach may be very effective for members residing in urban and metropolitan areas and less effective among members in rural locations for whom mail may be more desirable.

For any messaging, especially mail or email, the language must be easy to follow and understand. The campaigns must use clear and direct language without jargon. Messages should be as concise as possible. Any communication that may not be positively received by members (such as new drug tiering costs) should be conveyed honestly and without intent to deceive. Members are able to read between the lines, and if the intent is to enhance the member experience, it is best to be upfront and honest.

One of the biggest detriments to satisfaction with a health plan is surprise. For example unexpected processes, barriers, and/or outcomes can be unpleasant surprises for the member. Well-crafted outreach programs can be used to educate members and minimize surprises. With all that goes on in the busy lives of members, appropriate outreach from their plan can be a good way to remind members that their health plan is there for them and that the member has made a wise decision in selecting the plan.

Resources and guidance

SPH Analytics can help plans develop short-term and long-term outreach solutions, delivering personalized messages via phone, mail, IVR, or email. Our outreach services are conducted onsite through our state-of-the-art call center and mail fulfillment facilities. Contact SPH Analytics for additional information and guidance on developing outreach programs specific to your plan’s needs.

Our call center engagement specialists understand that they serve as an extension of your health plan. Working with you, our project team will monitor and discuss outreach results and member feedback. The health plan is able to respond to member concerns, initiate quality improvements, and continue to maintain a pulse on member attitudes and perceptions.

Additional Resources

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