[ Thursday, August 21, 2003 ]
Before he died several years ago, my father-in-law was a patient at MD Anderson in Houston. We have, since then, periodically contributed to MD Anderson's fundraising drives. Of course, one of the major annoyances of contributing to a fundraising drive is that you end up on so many other lists (as well as earning a never-ending spot on that entity's list). That aside, however, our connection to MD Anderson is clearly linked to my father-in-law's stay and treatment there.
Many hospitals and healthcare providers rely on previous patients for contributions. Who is more likely to contribute to a particular provider than someone who was helped by that provider and has fond memories of the care they received (assuming the care is good, natch)? The problem is that under HIPAA, it's getting harder for hospitals to use the information that was most useful to them.
Under HIPAA, a hospital can use general demographic information about its patients to target its fundraising efforts. The hospital can send bequest requests to former patients. However, if the hospital is interested in raising funds for a particular part of the hospital (a cancer center, or a cardiac cath lab), it can't focus its fundraising efforts on those most likely to be interested in giving: those who were at the hospital for cancer or cardiac care. That raises the cost of fundraising for the hospital, since it can't target as tightly its most likely donors.
Here's an article
from Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier that outlines some of those problems facing hospital fundraisers. One interesting point is that urban hospitals have it the worst under these new rules; rural hospital fundraisers generally know who in the area is likely to be a donor, and can focus their efforts on those potential big givers. Likewise, hospitals that have an experienced fundraising staff or have been in the solicitation game for a long time are more likely to know who to target. It's urban hospitals that don't have big endowments or long-standing fundraising efforts that are hurt the most.
Jeff [2:56 PM]
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