Blue Mailbox with Mails Isolated on White.jpegLast week the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sent a letter to every doctor in the U.S. to warn them of the dangers of opioid addiction.  While certainly well intentioned, I have to ask - in this age of technology, is this the best we can do?  Why not fax or, even better, send a Western Union cable?

The message is a good and important one.  And the letter itself directs people to find more information online at  But there is just so much wrong with the fact that the U.S. government had to spend this much money to put out a form letter and mail it to over 2M physicians.

As Stat News pointed out in their Morning Rounds email last Friday:

One of the hurdles to making sure the campaign is effective? Getting doctors to open the letters and use the cards. His staffers tell me they put their creative juices to work designing the envelope and letter to make sure it didn’t look like the spam doctors get flooded with daily.

As a non-practicing physician, my wife was one of the 2.3 million recipients of that letter. 

Sure looked like junk mail to me…….


Dear Colleague?  Really?



And you know what?  It went right into our recycling bin without ever being opened, exactly because it looked like the junk we all get every day in the mail.

Here’s the text I had to send my wife last week asking her to pull the letter out of recycling so I could write this post:


How many of those 2.3M targeted doctors filed this letter the same exact way we did – right in the recycling bin?  And how would that open rate compare with a well-designed email campaign or targeted social media campaign?

I’m not a marketing guru, so maybe I’m off base.  But I think this is just another sign of how badly out of touch healthcare and government are with technology and the tools that are available now to expedite communication, collaboration, analysis, and action.

If you’d like to check out how we’re using technology to better understand and analyze drug efficacy and safety, please click here.


Brian M. Overstreet, President, Advera Health Analytics, Inc.


Topics: Drug Safety, Managed Care

Brian Overstreet

Written by Brian Overstreet