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Anatomy of Direct Mail in Healthcare
Direct Mail
January 17, 2023

Anatomy of Direct Mail in Healthcare

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There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to direct mail, and the healthcare industry requires a unique approach to be effective. The good news is direct mail appeals to consumers more than other types of marketing because it’s less intrusive, more tangible, and highly trusted.

Direct mail lets healthcare organizations target consumers based on their needs and personalize the messages. Plus, there’s less competition. More importantly, direct mail is highly trackable and can even integrate with digital channels. That way, you can determine response rates and know whether your campaign is worth the expense.

Direct mail for healthcare

Direct mail is one of the most effective options for marketing your healthcare business. As our State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights Report notes, 62% of consumers say direct mail has inspired them to take action.

A wide range of organizations can benefit from sending direct mail, including:

  • Nursing care centers
  • Health insurance
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Home care organizations
  • Urgent care clinics
  • Testing laboratories

There are many reasons direct mail is more effective than other channels. We found from consumers that:

  • 72% read direct mail immediately or on the same day they bring it inside their residence
  • 44% prefer direct mail as their preferred channel of communication for brands they don’t know
  • 51% sometimes or often share direct mail with friends and family
  • 70% still opt to receive some paper statements from brands

In essence, direct mail is an effective channel for healthcare marketing and communications. Let's take a closer look at some of the types of direct mail that work in the healthcare industry.

Types of direct mail for healthcare

You have many options for sending direct mail to healthcare consumers. While most businesses focus on special promotions, there are other ways to keep reminding consumers of your brand’s services.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:


One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about direct mail for healthcare is billing and sending invoices as well as explanation of benefits letters.

Walk-in promotions

By sending direct mail, you can increase the number of new and existing patients and visits. You can even offer free consultations for certain services. This approach applies to any facility, including private offices, clinics, and hospitals.

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UnitedHealthcare wants its members to attend sessions to learn more about their benefits. Source: Who's Mailing What!

Special event announcements

If your organization offers healthcare fairs, classes, workshops, seminars, and other educational events, direct mail helps spread the word.

Expert content

Direct mail gives you unlimited opportunities to provide consumers with valuable content. This option might include everything from healthy lifestyle tips and home remedies to clinical research reports and debunked medical myths. In turn, consumers will see you as a credible and trustworthy organization that stays up-to-date and cares about its patients.

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This piece of direct mail is reminding patients to book a specific type of appointment. Source: Who's Mailing What!

Appointment reminders

Many people forget about their doctor’s appointments, especially if they make them months in advance. It’s always a good idea to follow up in case they need to reschedule. That way, you ensure all patient slots remain filled. While you can send email reminders, your patients are more likely to open direct mail. You can also send reminders to patients to book future appointments that they're entitled to through their coverage, like the mammogram example above.

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Great use of a testimonial in this piece of direct mail to show social proof. Source: Who's Mailing What!

Reviews and testimonials

Someone looking for a new provider may be on the fence or unsure who to go with. That’s where reviews and testimonials come in. When prospective patients see that others are delighted with your medical services, they’re more likely to give you a chance. Social proof is a powerful thing to include in your direct mail pieces.

Thank you notes

Don’t forget about the thank you letter. It’s an overlooked but excellent reason to get some direct mail into your patients' hands. You can express your appreciation for their continued patronage.

Different formats of direct mail for healthcare

When people think of direct mail, a pretty postcard is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Fortunately, different direct mail formats exist, but choosing the right one for your healthcare promotions is critical.

Here are a few options at your disposal:


Postcards come in all types of designs and sizes. The key is to ensure your message is clear and concise. Take advantage of relevant imagery and avoid overloading your direct mail with a lot of text.


Direct mail letters are suitable for confidential and personalized messages. Most people are used to getting letters with white envelopes, so choose colors or design elements that stand out.


Flyers, newsletters, and other self-mailers offer a cost-effective way to send eye-catching marketing materials. You won’t have the added expense of an envelope. Plus, you can attract attention with a key message before the recipient even opens it.

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An example of a mailed brochure from UnitedHealthcare. Source: Who's Mailing What!


Brochures are the go-to when healthcare organizations want to give current and potential patients an overview of their services. You have many aesthetically appealing design options to display your worth.


A direct mail catalog includes more detailed information than a brochure. It can feature an organized list of healthcare services, contact information, and additional resources.

An effective direct mailpiece isn't only about how attractive it looks. Avoid getting too caught up in creating a design that wows from the outside (appeals to their senses), and consider how best you can get a reaction out of recipients from the inside (taps into their emotions).

Examples of effective direct mail for healthcare

There’s no better way to learn the best direct mail strategies for healthcare than by checking out some of the many case studies on our website. We specialize in several industries, including healthcare, so you’re sure to find one that inspires your marketing.

OSF Healthcare

OSF Healthcare’s “Health Care in Your Neighborhood” campaign is a great example of effective direct mail in the industry. The not-for-profit organization used direct mail postcards to promote its services to busy families in the neighborhood. Some aspects that stood out and made its campaign a success include:

  • Design: Targeted families who just moved and might benefit from having a convenient healthcare location
  • Images: Tapped into pain points and shows a solution
  • QR code: Made it easy for customers to access the information with their smartphone with trackable QR codes
  • Bullets: Highlighted the center’s daily availability, range of services suited for all family members, and online scheduling
  • Custom URL: Took potential new patients to a landing page specific to people who moved into the area, which it could also use for tracking direct mail metrics
  • Social media icons: Showed recipients that the organization is active on several social media platforms.

Included Health

Included Healthcare is a comprehensive provider of everything from urgent and primary care to specialty care and behavioral health. It's unique in that it's available 24/7, in-person or virtually. To market its services for customer acquisition and brand awareness, it uses intelligent direct mail. It set up its automated direct mail campaigns based on a CRM system that triggers when a member:

  • Starts a new job
  • Moves to a new area
  • Visits a facility

The campaign includes a CTA for customers to download an Apple or Android app and activate their accounts. As a result, the company's average account activation rate is nearly 3% across multiple direct mail campaigns compared to only 2% for email.

The skeleton for creating direct mail in healthcare

Recap of elements that work to create the "anatomy" of what works. Here are the elements you need:

  • Trigger: Make sure the recipient understands why they're getting this mailer, for example, like OSF Healthcare triggered the mailing by seeing who moved
  • Form factor (letters for privacy and HIPAA compliance, postcards for patient acquisition)
  • Personalization
  • CTA
  • Healthcare facility contact information

Direct mail buckslips

Companies in the financial services and insurance industries commonly use this direct mail approach, but it’s also an option for healthcare businesses. If you’re sending letters or invoices with your direct mail for healthcare, consider including Lob buckslips. They're small inserts about the size of a dollar bill (a “buck”).

You can use these inserts for several healthcare-related purposes, including:

  • Introducing new healthcare services or products
  • Sharing time-sensitive promotional offers
  • Sending a money-saving coupon on services or at the pharmacy
  • Calling attention to an important message

The best thing about buck slips is you don’t have to pay for additional pages or postage. When often sending ignored letters or invoices, these “statement stuffers” add a splash of color with a compelling CTA. You can easily add buckslips to your campaign using Lob.

Time for a check-up: direct mail in your workflows

Understanding the most effective direct mail strategies for healthcare is essential, no matter your type of organization. Direct mail varies widely, but choosing the type and format best suited for your audience, message, and intention is crucial. Many healthcare organizations have used these strategies to boost their marketing efforts. Keep in mind that successful direct mail for healthcare leverages software and automation—the heart of modern direct mail marketing. This method also makes it easy to boost efforts across omnichannel campaigns for your healthcare business to grow and thrive.

Lob offers direct mail for healthcare services for clients needing compliant, patient-centric outreach. We create mail that drives better patient and provider outcomes, whether the focus is on customer acquisition, customer retention, or customer reactivation. In addition, our services are rooted in sustainable direct mail practices to help reduce your environmental footprint. If you’re looking for assistance with your next campaign, contact us for more information or to request a demo.

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