Inova Mailers Take Response to Heart

A hospital's effort last year to boost awareness of its heart-health services with digitally produced mailers has generated a 10 percent increase in response compared with a control group.

The campaign also yielded more than $800,000 in additional billings for Inova Health System, Fairfax, VA. Inova measured this result by comparing billings of those who received a mailer with a control group that did not.

The “Don't Wait” campaign aimed to increase patient volume for the hospital by promoting its cardiology services. Two years ago, Inova developed a database of past patients and prospects in its service area with the help of CPM Marketing Group, Middleton, WI.

CPM also provided the hospital with its Consumer Healthcare Utilization Index to grade how likely individuals are to need a particular type of health service in the future based on their demographic data. Using the CHUI system, Inova selected 25,000 people and mailed them in October 2003.

Former President Bill Clinton's recent heart-bypass surgery raised public awareness about heart health. Erin Styles, CRM operations manager for Inova, said the hospital has not tied any marketing to Clinton's surgery but that news coverage of the event could lead consumers to get checkups.

“It should be interesting to see the effects, how it affects volumes or pre-emptive doctor visits,” Styles said.

Unlike consumer products, results from a campaign for hospital services must be tracked over months because consumers often don't need a hospital until long after they receive a mailer, she said. Inova will review results next month to get a complete picture of the campaign. It can take up to 1 1/2 years of observation to get a mail campaign's full results.

Along with CHUI scores, Inova narrowed its mailing list to men ages 30-65 and women 40-65 and household incomes greater than $50,000. It also targeted patients who had been identified as having had a hypertension diagnosis. Those who already had been patients at the hospital for cardiology services did not get mailers.

With digital print technology, Inova varied the mailers by the individual's demographic information contained in Inova's database. Older males received mailers with an image of both a man and a woman because men in these age groups often are in families in which women make healthcare decisions for the family.

The mailers invite recipients to take a health assessment test, either online or by calling a hospital call center. They also inform recipients about Inova's Chest Pain Observation Unit, a section of the hospital dedicated to assessing chest pain patients rather than having them processed in the often-crowded emergency room.

Inova then followed up with a postcard, also personalized by recipients' demographic data. The postcard had 32 versions.

Using a database marketing system has helped push Inova ahead of the competition in its service area, Styles said.

“It's cost efficient,” she said. “We can do this with targeting, so instead of talking to everyone, we can talk to those most at risk.”

Inova plans to continue to use mail marketing to promote its cardiology services and also for a new movers campaign, an obstetrics effort and a promotion for its new heart and vascular institute, set to open this fall. Inova also plans to institute a customized health newsletter for consumers and continue to develop its Web portal, which has 5,000 consumers registered, for capturing consumer data.

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