Dead or Alive? DX Marketing Develops A More Accurate Deceased Suppression Model

DX Marketing works with a number of healthcare organizations including hospitals, urgent care centers, and specialty practice groups. One of the most sensitive challenges healthcare marketers deal with is accurately removing the names of deceased individuals from their databases.
Imagine the unnecessary grief that is caused when a piece of mail arrives for a family member who has passed away. Now imagine how callous it appears when that mail comes from a hospital where the individual could not be saved and unfortunately passed on. Obviously, it can be quite harmful to the hospital’s reputation. The process for eliminating the names of deceased individuals from a database is called Deceased Suppression and, sadly, the industry standard for doing such is extremely unreliable.

Determined to end the frustration for our clients, DXM set out to develop a better Deceased Suppression model.

To understand what we did, it’s necessary to know how the standard deceased suppression model works. Records are matched and flagged against the U.S. Social Security Administration’s (SSA) deceased list and against secondary sources that include public records such as birth certificates; local, state, and federal records, along with being reported by the family. In the U.S. there are approximately 80M records on the file.

At this level, if the person who died never worked or received Social Security benefits, or if a surviving family member becomes eligible for a benefit after the death, the SSA may not be informed about it. The SSA receives about 2.5 million reports of death each year and they come from a variety of sources, including family members, funeral homes, hospitals, financial institutions, the U.S. Postal Service, Medicare, Veterans Affairs and other state and federal agencies. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 2013 – the most current numbers available -- the number of deaths in the U.S. was 2,596,993. This means the SSA receives death reports for the vast majority of citizens but not all of them and those that never register with the SSA are not accounted for by that organization.

The SSA also requires an exact spelling of each name reported, which presents a problem when suppressing deceased individuals. While postal software standardizes addresses, there is no such correction for names. This is a critical factor because the name-to-name match must be exact in order for it to be deleted from the file. For example, if Elizabeth Jones is reported to the SSA as deceased, the USPS will not detect it if mail is addressed to her using her nickname Beth.

In an effort to provide a more thorough analysis and review of deceased individuals on our clients’ patient files, we worked with our database partners and other sources to develop a new suppression model that incorporates higher-level logic and algorithms and focuses specifically on the name-to-name analysis. The following charts help explain this analysis more fully along with comparative results. Not only does our new process determine exact matches as in the standard suppression method, it also provides enhanced levels of suppression to help minimize the possibility of mailing to deceased individuals. As I said before, many factors make it impossible to assure that 100% of all deceased names will be eliminated from mailings (some people don’t register with the SSA, active telephone listings of deceased individuals, credit cards/checking accounts still in use, etc.), but DXM’s enhanced process appreciably reduces the risk of harming a brand’s reputation.

To expedite this process, we worked with our database partner to establish an automatic Enhanced Suppression Process. We post the file to a secure FTP and within seconds the file is retrieved. Within 10 to 15 minutes, we have the file reposted to the FTP with the enhanced model codes appended. So, what once took 24-72 hours, now takes approximately 15 minutes.

DXM Deceased Suppression table

These are sample records pulled from an actual campaign we did for a hospital’s End of Year campaign, which produced a 32% response rate and a 45% increase in average revenue per visit versus the previous year’s End of Year campaign. Once again, DXM proves that efficiency nets results.

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