Coming Up With Creative Ways To Promote Colonoscopies


Q&A with Robert Fusco, MD, gastroenterologist and creator of some unforgettable holiday cards.

You produce hilarious Christmas cards to encourage patients to schedule colonoscopy screenings. Why use that method to market your practice?

We believe in top-of-mind advertising and send the cards to about 25,000 potential patients. They might not need a colonoscopy now, but when it's time, we want them to think Who was that crazy group? No one looks forward to having a colonoscopy, so it helps to approach the topic with a little bit of humor.

You've created cards for 14 years and there's been some memorable themes. How do you come up with the ideas?

They're often based on current events or hit TV shows or movies. We brainstorm for months, although we always seem to decide on the final theme at the last minute (see Christmas Cards).

Last year's card hit on the controversy surrounding Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination hearings. Were you nervous to go there?

National coverage of the hearings was so pervasive that we felt it was the best choice. Plus, we tried to make the card party neutral. I was a bit concerned about what our patients would think, but their response has been overwhelmingly positive. It's another winner! ?

How do you keep the fun vibe going when patients show up for their screenings?

I give out gold stars to patients with great bowel preps. You wouldn't believe the number of 60-year-old men who wake up from screenings — during which I could have found evidence of colon cancer, mind you — and ask if they got a gold star.

Do you practice what you preach?

Absolutely. I'm 72 and have undergone 6 colonoscopies, during which 17 precancerous polyps were found.

Do you get gold stars for your bowel preps?

Well, not exactly, because my partner who performs the procedures doesn't give them out. But some of the nurses give them to me, so it all works out.

The cards are funny, but their messages are serious, right?

Exactly. Screening is extremely important and we're trying to get that message across. My son had a precancerous polyp removed at age 40. If he had waited to get screened, it would have been too late. OSM

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