Flu vaccines prevent nearly 7.5 million illnesses, 3.7 million doctor visits, 105,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 deaths annually. For the 2022-23 flu season, 173.37 million Americans received the flu vaccine, with an average savings of $13.66 per vaccine, meaning nearly $2.4 billion was saved from flu vaccinations last season. Conversely, 46% of eligible Americans weren’t vaccinated. Understanding who isn’t getting their flu vaccine and why are fundamental to improve vaccination rates for the 2023-24 season.
When taking a closer look at the 46% of Americans not getting vaccinated, Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) factors such as age, race, and income become evident. Less than 43% of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/ Alaskan Native adults were vaccinated during the 2021-22 flu season. Flu hospitalization rates were nearly 80% higher among Black adults than White adults from 2009-2022. Adults with incomes less than $35,000 annually had 21% decreased odds of receiving the flu vaccine. Additionally, people aged 18-49 years are nearly 37% less likely to get vaccinated than those aged 65 and older. Understanding why these inequities exist is crucial when designing programs to help overcome them.
Designing Flu Outreach for All
According to a report from the CDC, some of the leading reasons for flu vaccine inequities include lack of accessibility, misinformation, and distrust of the medical system as a whole. Program design that directly targets overcoming these barriers is essential in improving vaccination rates across member populations.
Lack of Accessibility
The structures and solutions put in place today primarily serve those who have the upper hand. Many members face accessibility barriers including lack of reliable transportation, disabilities that inhibit access, lack of internet, inflexible work schedules, and language and translation barriers, to name a few. Through no fault of their own, the ability for members facing these challenges to receive vaccinations is nearly impossible due to systems that haven’t been designed in consideration of diverse needs and preferences.
The good news is that health plans can play a huge role in overcoming these barriers. By deploying programs designed with accessibility at the forefront, plans can identify individual barriers, and deliver tailored resources to create access. This begins with a solid understanding of the target audience.
mPulse leverages a combination of both internal and external data sets, which enables a holistic view of member insights and gives plans the ability to craft the most relevant digital touchpoints. By connecting with members through their preferred communication channel, whether it be SMS, email, or IVR, plans can quickly and efficiently identify and overcome individual barriers. With the right message, sent through the right channel, in the right language, with the right resource, plans can begin meeting members where they are to improve flu vaccination rates.
Misinformation and Knowledge Gaps
While the internet and social networking platforms are a great way to discover and share news and information, they aren’t always reliable. Post-pandemic, perceptions about vaccinations and flu have garnered even more skepticism. It’s more important now than ever to provide members with reliable and relevant information about vaccines.
By borrowing inspiration from preferred methods of content consumption, i.e. popular social platforms, mPulse educates members in a frictionless, relatable format. Short-form content that is both entertaining and educational is a great way to provide relevant information. In addition to ensuring the content is frictionless and engaging, we also ensure its accessible. Relatable characters that portray diverse populations, and multilingual capabilities are essential to resonating with broader member groups and gaining credibility. Content is sent through each member’s preferred communication channel, making it easy to receive the information they need.
Lack of representation in the medical field, in addition to a longstanding history of structural racism and discrimination contribute to the lack of trust many members have toward the medical system. While health plans are a small piece of this larger puzzle, gaining the trust of the members they serve is imperative. Leaning on digital trends for inspiration and support in building trust can allow plans to scale effectively.
Several positive and meaningful touchpoints over time helps create and sustain member relationships. mPulse works with health plans to deliver empathic messaging that includes relevant and accessible information in each member’s preferred language, through the right channel. When members feel they can rely on their health plan for the care and resources they need most, they’re more likely to trust their plan and feel empowered to act. Simply informing a member they are due for a flu vaccine may come across as abrasive. Our sensitive, culturally relevant messaging incorporates behavioral science techniques, cinematic educational content, and tailored resources, letting the member know their plan understands their needs, and cares about their health. When members feel valued, they’re more likely to trust their plan, and adopt healthier behaviors.
Technology has an imperative role in helping overcome health disparities and barriers to flu vaccinations. By leveraging innovative digital trends designed to serve vulnerable populations, health plans can begin broadening accessibility, educating and empowering members, and building trust at scale to improve vaccination rates and inspire healthier outcomes for the populations they serve.
mPulse Mobile designs solutions that identify and overcome barriers to action. Our behavior change model incorporates health equity, behavioral science, and instructional strategy to deliver best-in-class outcomes. To learn more about how our flu vaccination solution can help overcome vaccine hesitancy for your members, contact us.