IU Health Center Marketing Campaign
IU Health Center
IU Health Center is a full-service medical facility that offers urgent medical care, women’s services, counseling and psychological services, and wellness programs at a reduced cost to IU Bloomington students and their families. On campus, however, it suffered from a reputation for slow service and low-quality care. To challenge these perceptions and to make more students aware of the wide range of services offered, IUHC came to IU Communications for a complete marketing makeover.
Scope of work included:
- A direct mail piece for parents of incoming freshmen
- Poster campaign
- Postcard campaign
The survey says, "Students are dissatisfied." In Spring 2010, the Board of Aeons, a student research and advisory committee, undertook a comprehensive survey of undergraduate students about their experiences with IU Health Center (IUHC). They identified three priorities for students when choosing a health care provider:
- Convenience of hours
- Quality of care
The survey indicated that many undergraduates were dissatisfied with IUHC on all three counts. While the cost of treatment was competitive, IUHC does not process insurance claims through its business office, so students had to file for reimbursement themselves. Though IUHC offered a 24/7 staffed medical hotline, it did not offer evening or weekend hours.
Finally, many students were dissatisfied with the care they received. One commented, “The staff is judgmental and insensitive when evaluating my reasons for visiting.” This negative word-of-mouth was so pervasive that the majority of survey participants indicated they were dissatisfied by the quality of care at IUHC, even though the majority of survey participants had never actually received treatment there.
The survey indicated that students rely heavily on their parents and friends for help choosing a medical provider, so it was essential to target those audiences as well as students in need of care.
Because college is generally the first time that students are responsible for their own health decisions, they may not have enough experience to determine which experiences are typical of American health care and which are not. For instance, one student commented, “I had to wait 15 minutes to get a flu shot; that was too long.”
Internal IUHC surveys showed that average wait times had been dropping for the past seven years, and that more than 90% of patients could expect to see a provider within 20 minutes of their arrival. So it was important to set realistic expectations with the campaign.
In addition, there had been less than a 4-percent increase in costs over the same time period, even as IUHC had added more services, particularly psychological counseling. It was necessary to help students understand the benefits of their student health fee, the insurance process, and that they could use their insurance cards in the pharmacy.
Because parents have such a strong influence over their students’ health care choices, we developed a mailer for parents of incoming freshmen. Inside was a magnet with IUHC phone numbers, including the after-hours care line, as well as a newsletter called The Freshman Health Guide. Parents were introduced to some of the more troublesome issues regarding IUHC care, including its insurance reimbursement policy and its reluctance to prescribe antibiotics without clinical evidence of a bacterial infection (one of students’ chief complaints about IUHC’s doctors). But we also used this as an opportunity to position IUHC as an advocate for students’ health. Parents were providing with a shopping list of over-the-counter medicines and first-aid tools.
Next, we worked to change student perceptions of the cost, convenience, and quality of care available at IUHC through an integrated poster and postcard campaign. We used experiences from students’ lives to recontextualize their IUHC experience. The cost was contrasted with the cost of a takeout coffee, the average wait time with a pizza delivery. Throughout, copy and messaging was designed to assure students that IUHC shared their priorities and was working to provide the best service possible.
Finally, to help reposition IUHC as a student-focused organization, we created a template for its extensive brochure library and redesigned and rewrote its four main publications: a health service overview, a counseling and psychological services overview, a wellness programs overview, and a sexual crisis services guideline. The tone of each was friendly, reassuring, and clearly spelled out students’ options for getting care.
Timely messaging leads to increased utilization. As of yet, IUHC has not undertaken another university-wide student survey to measure how much perceptions have changed since the launch of the campaign. However, individual pieces from the campaign have achieved measurable results. A postcard promoting counseling services, sent to students approximately four weeks before the end of the spring semester, sparked a 3.5-percent increase in appointments over the previous year.
Development of the entire campaign took approximately 10 months. The total budget, including printing costs, was $34,170.
Postcards from the campaign received both a Gold Award and a Silver Award for Excellence in Print Advertising from the District V CASE Awards.
One postcard in particular, promoting counseling services, prompted numerous phone calls from parents and community members. “I just took a call from a local mother ... I believe she used the word ‘brilliant’ and other pleasant adjectives!” e-mailed Nancy Stockton, director of IUHC's Counseling and Psychological Services unit, just three days after the postcard was mailed.