Keep Abreast of Fast-Changing Industry

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In a business environment as dynamic as the healthcare industry, information accuracy is not easy to maintain, but not impossible either. Knowing whether you are buying the most accurate information is easy once you understand how information is gathered and kept current.

Although response lists are valuable because they are made up of known respondents, they offer a limited universe of potential buyers. Compiled lists, on the other hand, usually consist of the entire universe of potential names in their particular segment.

To keep compiled lists current, the list owner must constantly survey the pertinent industry. The best way to update names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. on a compiled list is to verify the information by phone a minimum of four times per year for optimum accuracy.

Regular phone verification of a healthcare list is costly. The information service provider must employ qualified researchers who know the industry and who have a talent for daily phone interviewing.

These researchers must receive continual training on healthcare industry changes. Time is money, and even with a well trained, enthusiastic staff, it takes an average of 1.6 calls to each entity to get the right information and anywhere from 60 days to 90 days to turn a 500,000-name database.

Healthcare lists are particularly difficult to keep current in today's environment of mergers and acquisitions because of resulting ownership changes and personnel turnover. The highest turnover is in hospital personnel, where the change can be more than 50 percent per year. Nursing homes, group medical practices and pharmacies can average 42 percent turnover as a result of professionals moving around within organizations and within the industry.

Managed care has contributed to a great amount of consolidation, including increased numbers of physicians forming group practices. All of this causes big changes in data.

Healthcare list providers that do not regularly verify their lists are unaware of the staggering degree of turnover within the industry. This lack of updating can lead to a huge error rate in any list that is not frequently updated.

For companies that compile vertical lists, such as those in health care, the goal is to produce lists of the highest quality. To substantiate the quality of information, list owners should have their lists and databases audited by an independent, well respected auditor. Not many lists available have been audited and passed the audit, but users can trust those that have.

Maintaining the accuracy of lists isn't the only responsibility of a list owner. A superior list owner will stay abreast of market changes to be able to quickly provide the newest data the market demands. To do this in the healthcare segment, the compiler must gather a broad enough range of job functions and types of healthcare organizations to be able to provide subsets of the entire database.

For example, a list owner should be able to quickly identify professionals responsible for safety functions at healthcare facilities. Or a sublist of professionals who conduct training within hospitals and other healthcare facilities should be at the fingertips of the list owner.

A good information provider should be able to quickly generate special customer-requested lists that are accurate and comprehensive. Unfortunately, not many list compilers in the healthcare industry have this capability because they don't maintain a broad enough range of data.

Because it is expensive to verify and update, many list owners believe that they cannot make a profit if they have to go that extra mile. They are more concerned with the buy-in price point they will have to charge than the quality of what they are delivering for that cost.

Never was the old adage "you get what you pay for" more appropriate than in providing healthcare-industry information. It is worth the extra cost up front to make certain that a list is of the highest quality. The list may cost a few extra dollars, but the almost nonexistent undeliverable (nixie) rate will ensure that direct marketing reaches its target and reaps the greatest possible profit for the mailer.

Stuart Krasney is founder, chairman and CEO of SK&A Information Services, Irvine, CA, a provider of healthcare industry information.

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