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Taking the paper out of member communications

Discover how digital communications can increase member engagement and lower the cost of care.

June 12, 2024 | 3-minute read


The paperless imperative

We have seen a steady uptick in the use of digital tools for communications in health care in recent years. Digital platforms ranging from email to text messages to mobile apps have all made inroads into how people communicate with physicians and pharmacists. This trend seemed to accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic when many became accustomed to new means of communication such as using telehealth portals to meet with their physicians. 

Despite these advances, adoption of them is not universal and opportunities exist to work together to help people move from traditional platforms to digital ones. In that sense, certain pharmacy communications remain the final frontier of the digital revolution. Long after digital communications have become the norm in many other aspects of our lives, printed materials are still used to convey important information to plan members.

Why is this so? Studies show people now prefer digital channels for important communications, with 80% of patients indicating they favor the use of digital communication when interacting with health care providers. While it could once be argued that paper communications are preferable since internet availability wasn’t universal, some 95% of Americans now use the internet daily. Just as most people can no longer conceive of waiting until the next day to read about the score of a football game in a newspaper, why would they wait days for vital information on a prescription medication?

One reason paper has persisted is regulatory. In certain instances, digital communications are prohibited under law. Other times regulations mandate that members must opt-in to paperless communications. This is where plan sponsors can help. Given their existing relationship with their members, plan sponsors are uniquely positioned to help alert and educate their members about why they should opt for a growing array of digital tools.

Benefits for members

From the member perspective, the benefits of embracing digital are self-evident.

Digital communications are more personalized and accurate. Health care is personal. While printed communications are often made to address the widest possible range of readers, digital communications can be more concise and tailored to the unique needs of the recipient. Moving to digital gives members the option to choose how they will interact with Optum Rx by personalizing communication preferences. For example, for notifications about prescription refills, a member could opt for text messages over emails. Moreover, as their needs evolve or preferences change, members can switch their preferred outreach choices at any time.

Digital communications are timelier and more convenient. Enabling paperless options can lead to quicker response times and more efficient issue resolution for members. Processes that previously took days can now be addressed expeditiously via member portals. For example, members can opt for real-time notifications of communications such as prior authorization approvals or home delivery notifications without waiting for mail delivery. Additionally, switching to digital is an easy way for members to archive important documents such as ID cards or explanations of benefits. Through modern interfaces such as our mobile app, members can access their digital documents at any time and print them only as needed.

Digital communications are greener. Another aspect of digital communications that may appeal to your members are the considerable environmental benefits to forgoing paper communications. Studies estimate that 42% of the annual global wood harvest is used to make paper. Sending an email requires only a fraction of the energy it takes to print, deliver and eventually dispose of a physical letter.

Benefits for plan sponsors

Just as the shift to digital benefits members, it also has tangible upsides for plan sponsors.

Digital communications improve member satisfaction and lower the cost of care. Digital channels facilitate more frequent and meaningful communication with members, encouraging engagement through tailored content, updates and notifications. By enhancing service quality, digital communications lead to increased member satisfaction. This in turn can increase medication compliance. Our data show that satisfied members are 1.5 times less likely to cancel a prescription.1 This translates into a 3% higher continuity of care which reduces the overall total cost of care.2

Digital communications lead to new insights. Digital interactions generate valuable data, allowing for detailed analysis of member behavior, preferences and needs. This can inform strategy and help us identify members who may benefit from more active interventions, including members managing complex or chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Digital communications align with sustainability initiatives. Encouraging members to go paperless can help plan sponsors demonstrate their commitment to sustainability to members, contributing positively to existing social responsibility goals. In the case of Optum Rx, our paperless initiatives are part of a broader, enterprise-wide effort to reduce paper-based interactions that saved some 1 billion pieces of paper in 2022.

How you can get started

The communications available for digital delivery are evolving and will continue to expand over time. Encouraging your members to go paperless and embrace digital self-service will improve their experience today and help automate additional digital options for them in the years to come.

To find out more about what you can do to encourage paperless communications, talk to your Optum Rx representative or download a digital kit that provides ideas and tools to help promote paperless communications to your members. 

Talk about going digital with your Optum Rx rep

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  1. Optum internal analysis
  2. Optum internal analysis