Dealing with the social determinants of health through enhanced digital engagement

Dealing with the social determinants of health through enhanced digital engagement

“Whatever you’re providing should be something that’s of value and resonates with the person reading it,” Kelley adds. “Digital tools and communications offer a great opportunity to provide that level of specificity and granularity because you can use a member’s profile to personalize and surface different information to target different social determinants of health.” Healthcare payers and their provider partners need to rethink how they approach digital communications based on a growing body of knowledge about the communities they serve. To engage historically disadvantaged and underserved populations more effectively, payers and providers must look more closely at the factors impacting the lives of individuals and communities outside the four walls of the clinic.

Health literacy remains a struggle for English-speaking communities, but what happens when digital communications do not cross the linguistic divide? According to Wellframe Communications and Translation Manager Daniel Kelley, Spanish-speaking communities face this challenge day in, day out. “Before we even speak to the issue of diabetes, we need to be thinking about how we build trust with these people,” she continues. “We need to show that we care about those differences and recognize that there’s a different set of problems that they might be facing. It is critical.”

“If a healthcare organization is offering telephonic support service in a state or a county that’s primarily Spanish speaking, then Spanish-speaking staff need to be on that phone line,” he explains. “It may sound obvious, but that’s not always the case. Being intentional in your digital communications with members starts with reflecting the community you’re serving. In doing so, you engage with them in a much more real and tangible way that shows them they are valued.” “We need to see the differences in the way that we approach members in order to provide more meaningful interventions and interactions with specific communities,” says Wellframe Senior Content Partner Jessica Schiller, who specializes in chronic disease management and self-advocacy.

Texting can also be a vital tool in a health plan’s digital communications arsenal. “By offering those more frequent and less formal touchpoints where people can come in and get out of the healthcare communication space on their own time, it gives them more incentive to engage with the process, which then gives you more opportunities to share resources, provide education, and empower them to make better choices,” Kelley adds. ” For 1 in 4 Spanish speakers, a smartphone is their primary means of accessing digital content,” Kelley reveals. “They may not have a home computer; they may not have a job where they’re regularly on a computer and able to check their email or surf the web.  Making a digital resource available on a smartphone is a simple, easy way to directly engage with a group of people who might otherwise be missed.”

To promote awareness about prevention and self-advocacy, health plans need to be mindful and intentional about how and where they make those resources available. “We are stuck in traditional models of addressing care that focus on downstream needs rather than anticipating and addressing a member’s needs holistically,” says Schiller. “Today, we have resources that members can use to connect with their health plan, helping them draw the line and connect the dots between the fact that their housing, food insecurity, childcare, or employment status actually have an impact on their health. These resources are there within the healthcare system where they can get the support they need.”

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