Digital Print Mailers Bring Patient Visits for Health Network

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A personalized mail campaign using variable-data technology is helping a healthcare system bring patients in for general checkups and preventative care.

Community Physicians of Indiana is seeing response rates of 10 percent or more from a campaign begun in September that uses digital print technology to personalize postcards by a patient's gender and age. Artwork and content vary by each patient's traits and needs.

It is the fruit of efforts by Community Physicians' parent organization, Indianapolis-based Community Health Networks, to create a patient database two years ago. Community Physicians will mail 6,000 patients in the database during the six-month campaign.

Healthcare marketing agency CPM Marketing Group, which announced the opening of a digital color imaging center in November, produced the campaign.

The 6,000 patients belong to four doctors. Each oversized postcard carries that doctor's photo along with a signed message from the physician.

Cover art for each postcard bears a picture and headline appropriate to the recipient's age and gender, and the body of the message includes medical advice specific to patients of that age. For example, a young male is advised to do regular self-checks for skin and testicular cancer, while older women are advised to obtain annual mammograms.

The personalization makes it more likely the postcard will captivate and motivate the consumer, said Brandon Roger, network director for planning and research with Community Health Networks.

The mailers are timed to drop so that consumers get them around their birthdays. The birthday acts as a trigger causing CPM's marketing software to order the postcard printed and mailed to the patient.

At $1.76 per postcard, the mailers are expensive, Roger said. But given the response rate -- one of the physician's practices got a 21 percent response in one test -- the cost is justified because of the revenue generated.

"Everyone is bombarded by direct mail," Roger said. "We wanted to create a mail piece that would be looked at and reviewed."

Because final results aren't complete, much of what Community Health has learned so far is anecdotal. Office managers for the doctors in the campaign initially complained that it wasn't working because few people returned a coupon for a free first aid kit when they came for their appointments.

Upon analyzing the patient activity data, however, Community Health found that there was indeed a correlation between patients receiving mailers and scheduling appointments. Patients also brought children and other family members with them or, in some cases, scheduled an appointment for themselves when they scheduled one for their children.

This indicates that the relationship patients have with their doctor provides more motivation than an incentive offer, Roger said. The campaign aims to build that relationship to where the patient sees the doctor as more than just a person to visit when they are sick.

"We want the patients to see their physician as their [primary] healthcare expert," Roger said.

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