Mobile messaging company mPulse Mobile releases results of SMS pilot study with Inland Empire Health Plan

By Heather Mack
02:46 am

Healthcare-focused mobile communications company mPulse Mobile has released the findings of a three-month study evaluating its interactive, two-way text message program with a Medicare and Medicaid plan in Southern California. The Encino, California-based mPulse teamed up with Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) and sent text messages tailored to 17,000 newly enrolled IEHP members based on demographic and behavioral data.
mPulse partnered with IEHP – which has grown in the past few years from 500,000 subscribers to over a million – to implement a mobile messaging strategy to better connect its members. IEHP hoped to increase member activation across a sample group living in Southern California, particularly in hard-to-reach populations, such as those living in the rural outskirts, with language barriers, or of lower socioeconomic status.

According to the program’s white paper, the interactive and tailored text messages have been successful in improving member knowledge of IEHP plan offerings and promoting proactive engagement among Medicaid members. Outcomes include increased awareness of appropriate settings for care and faster response rates to healthcare providers.

The results also suggest that receiving timely information regarding available healthcare services empowers individuals to utilize cost-effective resources. For example, the Medicaid population utilizes emergency room services at twice the rate of private insurance, and the results of the study show a positive impact on how patients use the ER.

 “mPulse Mobile’s understanding of the Medicaid population and insight-driven mobile engagement solution has enabled us to connect and engage in a two-way dialog with our members, a conversation that’s led to improved knowledge of our services, generating better health outcomes,” Susan Arcidiacono, IEHP’s Chief Marketing Officer, said in a statement. “We’re eager to apply these learnings to our broader member base and continue working with mPulse Mobile to implement innovative mobile strategies to improve population health.”

Other key findings include:

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  • 91 percent of members found that the text messages improved their overall knowledge of IEHP services
  • The number of members who reported they would visit the ER for a minor condition dropped from 11 percent to 4 percent
  • 10 percent of members participated in a series of health challenges with a 33 percent completion rate
  • The engagement score, based on response behavior and sentiment, for the study group was 2.5 times greater than the control group

The findings come just a few months after a $725,000 investment in mPulse Mobile by the California Health Care Foundation’s Health Innovation Fund.
For IEHP, their subscriber base was rapidly growing, largely in part to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, mPulse told MobiHealthNews. The partnership with mPulse came about when they were looking for a fast, efficient way to engage patients and better utilize resources.
“We did a phone number scrub and found that over 67 percent of their subscribers had mobile phones,” Chris Nicholson, co-founder and CEO of mPulse told MobiHealthNews. “We’re dealing with a demographic that is typically more transient, with many not having a permanent address or landlines, but the mobile numbers are one thing that they do hang on to. It’s their life line.”
mPulse, which spun out of secure mobile messaging company mobileStorm in late 2014, has raised funding totaling $13.35 million as of date. The company’s secure messaging is designed for various healthcare organizations including payers, pharmacies, providers and medical device companies. The program is specifically tailored to engage all parties involved, from the customers to the providers, and can communicate in English, Spanish, several other Romance languages and Chinese.  After the results of the first few months, IEHP and mPulse will reach out to expand the program to the full population of over a million members.
“We get such a broad reach because it doesn’t require a prior app download,” Nicholson said. “We do a full multi-channel: it’s SMS, push notifications, secure messaging both in app or on a web-based link, so we can send messages with a short link and they can access rich PHI content as well. That gives us secure options to deliver information in HIPAA-compliant methods. ... There is recognition from a lot of groups who support improving services to the Medicaid and Medicare populations.” 
Nicholson explained how mPulse’s machine learning system leverages natural language processing and sentiment analysis in mobile text messaging. So, when a patient responds in a certain way, such as a negative sentiment towards getting a flu shots, the system will evolve to interact with the patient in a way they want to be interacted with. For the moments when mPulse doesn’t know how to respond, it dispatches real human beings to do the job.
“It understands a lot,” Nicholson said. “It knows ‘Who is my doctor in my network?’ Or ‘How do I reschedule my appointment?’ or even to use shortened words like ‘yep or ‘uh-huh,’ we can understand that. But if they send things back that are new that we really don’t understand, then we can send that back to what we call triage. It actually then allows for a customer service rep, or a coach or a nurse to respond, and then they can actually respond through the platform directly back to the patient without the patient having to change channels.”
Nicholson, along with and Behavioral Data Scientist Rena Prayaga, will present the study’s findings for the first time publicly on July 13. Their presentation, ‘Utilize Interactive Text Messaging to Improve the Health of the Medicaid population,’ is a featured session at the 6th Annual World Congress Medicaid Summit in Tysons Corner, VA.
For now, the company will work on expanding its language library, plus dig more into the data it is getting back from consumers and start on a few more high-profile research projects, on which Nicholson declined to elaborate at this time.
“Basically, we’re going to be doing more of the same,” Nicholson said. “We’re getting all kinds of interesting insights in the context of how members are responding, and in the next year, we’re really going to be enhancing those reporting capabilities.”


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