Depth of targeted marketing programs varies among healthcare sectors

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Windsor used predictive response modeling to market its Medicare Advantage plan
Windsor used predictive response modeling to market its Medicare Advantage plan

Windsor Health Plan recognized it had a short window to legally attract new members to its Medicare Advantage health plan during the three-month fall marketing period last year, so the company applied predictive response modeling to quickly find its best prospects.


In conjunction with KBM Group: Health Services, it selected top prospects from its list of 2 million addresses. Insurers were only able to communicate with prospects before the October 1 enrollment start date if the marketing communications remained benefit neutral. Complying with the regulation, Windsor mailed a copy of the US Social 
Security Administration's "Medicare" guide in a 6" x 9" envelope to its 200,000 best prospects in the five-state region of Alabama, 
Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee on September 17, just two weeks prior to the marketing start date for the Medicare Annual Election Period. Windsor sent the piece to these top-performing five deciles after studying the demographics and psychographics of those who had responded to marketing from them in the past.


"We wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of new regulations," says John Sowell, VP of marketing at Windsor Health Plan, Inc. "Because there were many changes with Medicare, the election period and new published social security guide, we wanted to make sure all eligibles in our service area were fully aware of the changes that were coming their way."


After October 1, insurers were able to discuss specific benefits with eligible prospects. Spanning October 15 to November 8, Windsor sent three different direct mail packages out to 200,000 additional prospects, aimed at generating leads for its Medicare Advantage health plan. The initial 200,000 targeted in September received the packages as well. The packages tested included a No. 10 envelope, a 9" x 12" envelope and a 6" x 9" self-mailer.


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Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS) launched a multichannel colorectal cancer screening campaign in conjunction with national colorectal cancer awareness month this past March. Jackson Marketing Group developed and executed the hospital system's vision.

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The campaign garnered a response rate of 1.64%, and 20,000 direct mail leads, says Sowell. He attributes Windsor's speedy turnaround from the time it dropped the benefit-specific direct mail piece in October to enrolling the member — an average of 36 to 38 days — to its earlier planning. "What we looked at is if we don't get a much earlier start, our window is so limited that we'll never be able to generate enough leads to make our sales goals," he explains.


"Windsor was among a small group of 
clients that were willing to communicate with the universe before they could sell them anything," adds Dennis Barnes, Jr., president of KBM Group: Health Services. 


The competitive landscape of the healthcare industry has forced such marketing sophistication at places like Windsor. However, while insurers and pharmaceutical companies tend toward a well-developed targeted direct marketing approach, hospitals have lagged behind, focused more on a traditional marcomms approach to generate awareness.


"When [hospitals] start applying too much of a marketing lens around driving business results, they start to lose that altruistic feel of what they're trying to do," says Jamie Peck, managing director at Rosetta Healthcare. 


Another catalyst for hospital systems' hesitant position in adopting direct marketing tenets such as predictive response modeling is their much lower marketing investment compared with insurers and pharmaceutical companies. Jan Lansing, VP of marketing and communications at Children's Hospital of Orange County, says that her market audience of pediatric healthcare is much narrower and limited compared to the vast databases of insurers and pharmaceutical companies. 


"In the case of children's hospitals, there's very limited predictive response modeling you can do, since most children are healthy," says Lansing. "Congenital heart disease among babies is not something you can predict, whereas most adults during the course of their mature lifetime will have cancer, heart disease or orthopedic issues. That happens in significant numbers that you can model. That is not the case with pediatric healthcare." 


Because hospitals rely on investment and support from philanthropic donors, they 
often focus on the management of their database of donors to the detriment of other goals, such as promoting services. 


The Children's Hospital of Orange County had both goals in mind when it launched its new brand marketing campaign featuring local print, broadcast, outdoor, banner 
advertising, paid search and social media. The campaign's objectives, says Lansing, is to increase volume into selected strategic areas of the hospital's clinical offerings, as well as increase philanthropic support.


"Hospitals have been a destination when you have a need. That's more of a branding and awareness issue versus a direct marketing issue," says Barnes. "Now hospitals still need to worry about brand recognition, but they also have to recognize that there are so many alternatives. They need to communicate more to us in a one-to-one fashion."


Sue Jablonski, chief communications officer at OhioHealth, a Fortune 100 nonprofit healthcare system with eight member branches, also believes that hospitals must balance focusing on brand awareness and use a targeted approach. She also cites 
hospital systems' local reach versus insurers and pharmaceutical companies' national focus as a reason why hospitals are behind in terms of more targeted direct marketing. 


Sally Foister, director of marketing services at Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center (GHS), acknowledges that hospitals aren't as far along as insurers and pharmaceutical companies, but she disputes the notion that hospitals neglect segmentation and other CRM tools. GHS uses eVariant as its CRM vendor, and it is able to pluck from its patient database those with an indication of risk for vascular disease in order to send them a direct mail piece for vascular screening each month. 


Hospital marketers remain positive on their sector's adoption of more advanced marketing methodology. "As our resources become more limited, we have to get smarter and more targeted," says Jablonski. "It's going to be a long time before you ever see the broad image advertising going away, but I think the mix is going to change more over time."

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