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Direct Response Marketing

Healthcare Marketing 2.0

1 Feb, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

Web-savvy consumers push DR marketers to break down emotional, physical and digital barriers.

Building Trust Through Education

One of the challenges of marketing healthcare products or services is building trust. As Yeo says, healthcare is not often a product you can touch and feel. Plus, it is a private and sensitive subject. She does point out though that as a product of Microsoft, some of that trust has already been earned for HealthVault.

However, to keep that strong foundation, the company has a two-pronged approach. First, by working with respectable companies, including names like Aetna, Kaiser Permanente and the American Heart Association. Some of the partnerships are Microsoft-sponsored and others are joint solutions. For example, HealthVault has created a health management solution specifically for Aetna customers, and for Kaiser — thus far — a program geared toward its employees. Most recently, HealthVault launched a Web site for the CVS MinuteClinic, which enables its patients to have access to their information to give to a primary care physician at their next visit.

One of the reasons Aetna partnered with HealthVault is because of the provider's focus on educating while marketing. Rick O'Connor is the individual marketing head for Aetna's consumer segment, focusing on customers under 65. Following the trend, O'Connor's team focuses on getting consumers and providers all the information they may need, often online at its Web site,, which focuses on education, not sales. "No matter how easy you try to make this category — writing at a fifth-grade level — it's very complicated," says O'Connor. "We make our money by educating people to make the right decisions."

The Baby Boomers, or "digital immigrants" as O'Connor refers to them, are mostly using the computer for research. When someone turns 50, health issues often spike, so Aetna targets consumers between 50 and 65 with educational materials. "We're moving our marketing more online. Statistics say that people spend as much time online as they do watching TV, and, depending on the age group, it can be two, three, even four times as much," says O'Connor.

He explains that while Aetna does use paid search and banner advertisements, it has had little success with E-mail marketing because of the need for lengthy explanations and the amount of electronic mail out there.

While the Internet is one of the best ways for Aetna to educate its consumers, the company also targets clients through TV — local 30- and 60-second spots — and direct mail. O'Connor says that Aetna may be looking into radio in 2009 if prices drop.

Another educational tool recently launched by Aetna is "Navigating Your Health Benefits For Dummies," a book that can be ordered for free on the Web site. The sale of this book is also a successful incentive in one of the company's direct mail campaigns. As of December 2008, Aetna had distributed more than 200,000 copies (in just more than two years) through its Web site, direct mail campaigns and other initiatives.

According to Kuzel, true success in healthcare marketing occurs when physician and patient education work in concordance so that the two can share in decision-making. Kuzel says that digital technology has enhanced the ability of doctors, patients and healthcare providers to share in the learning process. For example, structured learning programs supported with interactive video and widgets can be provided to allow patients to note questions that arise as they are conducting research. Later on, those questions can be sent to a mobile phone or PDA to carry to a doctor visit.

"There are 188 million office visits wasted each year because the patient either didn't agree with or didn't understand their doctor's treatment recommendation," says Kuzel. "As a result, about 20 percent of initial prescriptions are never filled, and half of all patients discontinue their medication within the first three months of therapy."

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