Bill Friedman and Ana Handshuh speaking together at a table with microphones at the RISE HEDIS 2022 conference

The Wider Circle crew kicked off its conference season at the 2022 RISE HEDIS Quality and Improvement Summit, October 25-26 in Miami. It was a fantastic two days of learning and making meaningful connections with peers who share our commitment to accelerating the delivery of quality care. Wider Circle’s VP of Payer and Provider Engagement, Bill Friedman, was invited to share his insights on a payer-focused panel led by Ana Handshuh, CHC, Principal of CAT5 Strategies. The panel, “Membership Has Its Privileges: A Programmatic Approach for Turning Your Members Into Raving Fans (and Closing Care Gaps, Too)”, focused on key principles for influencing member behavior to encourage retention and inspire better health outcomes. Member experience is increasingly having a more substantial (and negative) impact on star ratings and corresponding quality bonus payments. Then there is the issue of member churn, which many payers are experiencing at historically high rates. 

So how can payers evolve their existing R & I activities to maximize member experience? Here are three insights from Friedman and Handshuh’s talk to help address this challenge: 

Positive Reinforcement and the Power of Habit

Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior is encouraged by rewards. Handshuh shared tips on how payers and their partners can apply this core psychological principle to member experience and retention. Consider attaching a reward to a specific action that ties back to desired quality and health outcome goals. Since rewards help drive permanent consistent behavior, Handshuh recommended delivering a reward every time the action is completed to associate the action with a positive outcome. And it doesn’t have to be extravagant – even a symbolic reward is often enough.

Friedman shared that this method is highly successful in motivating Wider Circle’s members to continuously engage in the Connect for Life program, a peer-based curriculum that connects like-minded members in the same neighborhood to achieve better health. For example, each time a member completes a weekly in-person or virtual meeting, they receive a call of encouragement from a Wider Circle buddy and are offered a special voluntary role or task at the next meeting. Members come to look forward to these weekly calls and often form new friendships as a result. When the members complete their six-week curriculum, they are honored at a graduation ceremony and receive a keepsake diploma. They are then invited to participate in a larger chapter group to broaden their circle. 

Goal Anticipation and the Motivation to Earn Rewards

The Goal Gradient Effect, coined by behaviorist Clark Hull in 1932, states that as people get closer to a reward, they speed up their behavior to reach their goal faster. Many of us have experienced this phenomenon through gamification on our favorite fitness and retail apps as points or gifts earned for reaching a new tier. Handshuh explained that people take more actions when they know they are close to achieving a reward goal. If rewards are perceived as unattainable, motivation to achieve the goal will diminish. When thinking through membership programs, consider offering small, attainable rewards throughout a journey, and invest some time in sending reminders and notifications to keep members motivated. 

Continual Investment and Personal Attachment

The psychological phenomenon known as the escalation of commitment suggests that the more work we put into something, the more value we attach to it. Handshuh explained that rewarding members for investing more time and effort into a plan and making it their own can result in members valuing the plan even more. Friedman provided the example of Community Ambassadors, highly engaged members who lie at the heart of Wider Circle’s Connect for Life program. Ambassadors find extreme personal gratification in taking a more active role in the program, and they are empowered to choose how much time they want to invest and what kinds of activities they’d like to help out with – whether that be making buddy calls to fellow members in need, offering rides to doctor appointments, or teaching their group a new skill. Wider Circle has found that when members inform, support, and motivate their neighbors to achieve better health, there is deeper engagement.

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About Ana Handshuh, Principal, CAT5 Strategies

Handshuh is a government programs executive with expertise in creating and implementing corporate programs for the healthcare industry. Her background includes Quality, Core Measures, Care Management, Benefit Design and Bid Submission, Accreditation, Regulatory Compliance, Revenue Management, Communications, Community-based Care Management Programs and Technology Integration. Ms. Handshuh currently serves on the Board of RISE. She is a sought after speaker on the national healthcare circuit in the areas of Quality, Star Ratings, Care Management, Member and Provider Engagement, and Revenue Management. 

About Bill Friedman, VP of Payer and Provider Engagement, Wider Circle

Friedman has deep expertise selling and marketing digital health engagement solutions to payers and providers with an intimate knowledge of the health payer landscape. Prior to joining Wider Circle, Friedman led payer sales at Carrot Fertility, a global provider of fertility benefits. He also led all sales and lead generation for Zipari, a SaaS based consumer engagement solution for health insurers, where his team was instrumental in the company’s growth and acquisition by Thoma Bravo. Before Zipari, Friedman was Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for Health Republic Insurance of New York, the largest CO-OP health insurance carrier in the nation, where he led sales operations, broker relations, strategic sales planning, and marketing. 

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About the author: Brian Christina