7 Proven Health Campaign Strategies to Close Gaps in Care

As providers help patients navigate a post-pandemic-surge in care needs, there is a renewed focus on using health campaign strategies to close widening gaps in care. Patient engagement has long been associated with lower costs, better clinical outcomes, and improved patient experience, and is now becoming foundational to practice operations.  

Many patients are catching up with missed screenings and compounding complications from care delays, which requires providers to scale up quickly to serve a patient’s individual needs, obtain new clinical data, and set a treatment plan that is both actionable and communicated effectively. An additional challenge is that the more complex a patient’s health is, the more likely it is that other gaps in care can occur without strong patient engagement. 

The good news is that providers can tap into new and existing data to create targeted communications—also known as health campaigns—that not only help patients understand and manage chronic conditions but encourages compliance with other routine care, such as screenings and vaccinations. 

We find there are seven key strategies to implement effective health campaigns: 

1. Use a mix of awareness and direct response campaign messages 

Health campaigns allow providers to view patients holistically and promote care options for all necessary medical needs, from routine screenings to specialized interventions. An awareness campaign might focus on education around a new treatment or tips for prevention of a certain disease. 

A direct response campaign moves patients to action. For example, an awareness campaign with education on the signs and symptoms of a disease—and the preventative measures one should take—may not spur a specific action. A second, direct response health campaign builds on this awareness by instructing patients to schedule an appointment for the defined, requisite care recommended, such as a blood test or referral to a specialist. 

2. Automate the timing of messages for more impactful health campaigns 

Finding the right time, event, or theme to send a health campaign can amplify its message by building on existing momentum. For example, months such as March and October are ideal times to promote colon cancer and breast cancer screenings, respectively.  

As these messages would potentially go to the same population—women over the age of 50—timing with Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps to remove overlaps for screening reminders, increase efficacy to act as it’s the expected month for the screening to occur, and tap into media coverage that is already delivering education and awareness of the disease. 

3. Personalize messages through multiple communication channels 

As digital preferences increase, a single outbound phone call to schedule a routine exam, or to follow-up on new health data, may not be enough. Patients may understand that a next step needs to be taken, but the message must reach them at the right time with the right modality to act. A phone call that goes to voicemail is a missed opportunity to connect. 

A personalized message that seeks to schedule follow-up diagnostics for a patient—sent through text, email, and phone—is more likely to result in a booked appointment, testing completed, and better outcome for the patient who can now better manage their condition. 

4. Drive patients to complete a specific action  

A key component to a personalized message is clearly stating the action a patient must take to continue with the care process. This could be filling out intake paperwork, reviewing surgery instructions, reading educational fact sheets, checking a health metric via remote monitoring tool, or scheduling an appointment to be seen. 

Simply stating that “flu shots are now available” without a specific directed action, may motivate some patients to schedule a vaccination or serve as a reminder, the reality is that only a small population will take the next step to book an appointment. This is because of the disconnect between the reminder and the appointment scheduling action. Conversely, a message directing patients to schedule a flu shot appointment that includes a link to self-schedule would drive up efficacy of the message and increase vaccination scheduling. In addition to, increasing appointment volume, improving patient retention and boosting provider utilization, this direct message helps prevent what could later be flu-related complications and hospitalizations. 

5. Incorporate feedback from patients and providers to create higher performance health campaigns 

Feedback from both patients and providers will help refine health campaigns to ensure sending via the right modality, at the right time, to the right population. Using surveys, data can be collected to make campaigns more interesting and impactful. 

For example, campaigns may need: 

  • A longer duration 
  • To begin earlier than the start of the awareness month being promoted 
  • Different core messaging or educational assets 
  • More frequent reminders 
  • To change focus based on utilization data 

Incorporating this data over time will help providers understand what their patients need to know, and when they need to know it, to help manage their health. 

6. Use data and automation to communicate consistently 

Timing and personalization are only two components of a successful health campaign strategy. To be effective, providers need to consider that their patients are on a continuous path of care. A path that can potentially hit bumps, turns, and unexpected delays. To circumvent these unexpected deviations in the care plan, providers should use their data and automation technology to keep consistent touchpoints. 

With staffing shortages widely felt across healthcare, and more shortages predicted for years to come, staff resourcing is a valuable commodity. As such, resources should be spent on patient care, rather than the tedious mechanisms leading to care. Automating communication and engagement using available data sources frees up staff time and streamlines the patient experience. 

7. Build on health campaigns to drive engagement 

Patient retention and closing gaps in care hinges on patients being moved to a specific action: to schedule and show up for their care. When considering some appointments can be scheduled up to 12 months out—such as a well woman visit or eye exam—keeping touchpoints between appointments is key to reducing cancellations and no-shows.

More frequent communication based on a patient populations’ needs will help to build credibility, maintain provider-patient relationships, and keep patients on track with necessary care. 

Learn more about creating effective health campaigns in Supporting Value-Based Care Through Targeted Patient Communications.