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November 4th, 2019

In our previous blog, Which Patients are Your Best Prospects?, MarkeTeam outlined criteria that help our hospital and medical center clients target their high potential audiences of patients for conversion into supporters.

Now that we understand the who, we come to the when and how 

The amount of time that has passed since the most recent patient visit turns out to be the most critical factor for our hospital and medical center clients. A wide variety of outreach campaigns—ranging from pure cultivation in the early stages to a strong ask for support in the very first communication—have been tested. Results show the best outcomes are attained when the patient is exposed to development efforts at the earliest stages.

For a large medical consortium with multiple hospital locations, over half of all conversions occur in the first 60 days after discharge. This critical time period is when the patient experience is most likely top-of-mind, and the patient and family members are most grateful for a positive outcome. In our experience, over 85% of patient conversions happen in the first six months after discharge, but that is slightly skewed by hospital clients typically ending outreach efforts after 120 to 150 days coupled with the high email opt-out rates in the initial 60 days. 

Once this approach is understood by all parties, focus should be placed on developing methods to quickly and efficiently provide discharged patient names, addresses and emails for solicitation. With medical record systems now automated and full information on billing and outcomes readily available, a weekly or bi-weekly data feed should be put in place for patient discharges to the development department. Knowing patient ages and inpatient vs. outpatient status helps to narrow down the initial selection, allowing qualifying households to be swept into an “evergreen” campaign that can be mailed each month or twice per month. Multiple visits can be suppressed from previous runs by patient ID or household, avoiding multiple efforts to chronic patients.

Our experience has shown that the offer of a back-end premium branded to the institution’s mission can double the response rate of the initial series.

This initial conversion campaign can use the same copy platform, layout and premium throughout the year, making the process easier to implement. Restricting conversion efforts to no more than once every six months per patient visit, the creative can be standardized and designed for quick turnaround, with updates and enhancements to the conversion series reviewed only once or twice annually.

Having two mailings dropping 30 days apart and arriving in-home within the first 30 and 60 days after discharge—coupled with an engagement series of emails with parallel offers—have been shown to have the highest impact. Once a patient has completed the initial series, a more thorough analysis and data modeling can be used to select only the very best patient prospects for on-going email and direct mail conversion.

Our experience has shown that the offer of a back-end premium branded to the institution’s mission can double the response rate of the initial series. Designing a mission-oriented premium will require staff assistance and the use of a fulfillment operation to reward new supporters, but its payoff is in the higher number of new donors. We have found that offering premiums does not decrease donor long-term value because the recipients are already closely linked to the mission of the medical center or hospital and desire to “wave the flag” on its behalf.

What direct mail formats have the highest response? Those with a high level of personalization that create an image of direct communication between the organization and patient. In many cases, a personal note format from the hospital leadership, a strong value statement for support and the offer of a premium makes for an excellent first impression. Offering the patient an opportunity to thank a staff member for outstanding care, or having a campaign aimed at enhancing the patient experience can help raise response and conversion.

Copy platforms that include matching gift campaigns, recognition in the form of certificates, and year-end campaigns at quarterly or 60-day intervals helps convert more patients into long-term supporters. The same packages and copy platforms used for donor renewal campaigns can be repurposed for patient conversion with slight changes to the copy, thus allowing low incremental costs for ongoing solicitation.

When do you give up on a patient prospect? For direct mail, the breakpoint is typically six months after discharge, when response drops to low levels. For email, actions can continue depending on opening and click-through rates, implying that ongoing digital campaigns require multiple engagement opportunities.

Once implemented, ongoing patient conversion efforts can be run almost on autopilot, gaining new supporters every day!

Blog written by Ron Bell | Managing Partner and Founder