When To Use Digital Printing Versus Offset Printing for Healthcare Communications

Healthcare communications are increasingly complicated, and selecting the best option for printing isn’t an easy task. The primary options are offset and digital printing. Which one is the best option for your healthcare communication program? The answer is, it depends.

Both are viable solutions. Knowing when to use each method can significantly impact the cost, quality, and turnaround times of your printed materials. This blog will review the scenarios best suited for offset printing versus digital.

Pros of Digital Printing

Due to advances in digital printing technology, the lines between digital and offset options aren’t as straightforward as they once were. Today, digital printing is usually the optimal choice when you need speed, flexibility, and personalization.

Fast Turnaround

Digital printing is typically faster because it does not require pre-press operations like offset printing. Drawing from data sources, digital printing can use up-to-the-minute information that can be output at the touch of a button.

Some healthcare communications must meet state-mandated timeframes for disclosures and updates. With digital printing, the most current information can be ready to mail within 48 to 72 hours. Each item can be customized to the individual’s circumstances.

Timeliness is also critical for products like a physician’s directory. It can be continuously updated digitally, so a new client gets the most up-to-date information possible.

Short Runs

Notwithstanding preparation expenses, digital printing costs are essentially the same, whether one copy or 1,000 copies. You can print one copy of a brochure customized for a client’s unique circumstances or 50 copies of a benefits summary. Typically, a short-run project is more cost-efficient in the digital format.

As press runs grow larger, there is a break-even point on digital vs. offset options. Consult with the printing experts at Heeter to understand how that will impact your projects.


Personalization or variable data printing (VDP) helps create a personalized connection to potential and current clients. You can change elements such as graphics, images and text on each printed piece without stopping or slowing the press.

While it’s commonly used to print addresses directly on each item, communicators can print individual messages to different groups. You can target acquisitional marketing to people who live in specific locations or may be eligible for various healthcare plans. For example, an insurance provider could cross-sell a vision plan to customers who already carry their dental insurance.

Personalization adds an extra level of connection with your audiences. The response rate and time of response are typically improved with personalized marketing strategies.

It’s also a way to simplify the information that a customer receives. Rather than sending an eight-page brochure with a comprehensive overview of all the insurance plan options, a personalized brochure could convey only the pertinent information in four pages.

Environmental Responsibility

Digital printing is environmentally efficient because it uses the exact amounts of ink and toner to avoid waste and eliminates the need to wash plates or blankets with chemicals.

Cons of Digital Printing


There may be a slightly reduced quality in photos and images compared to offset printing. But for most marketing-oriented materials, the differences are not noticeable to the average person. Digital printing may not be able to produce Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors precisely.


Digital printing typically has a higher cost for larger runs. There will be a break-even point for large projects where it may make financial sense to opt for offset printing.

Material Limitations

Digital presses are primarily designed for paper. If you want to print on heavier stock or other substrates such as plastics, digital printing may limit your options. Discuss your project with a printing expert to decide the best route to make your project a success.

Pros of Offset Printing

Even as digital printing becomes more prominent, offset printing is a proven method that delivers predictable, repeatable results.


For large print runs, offset printing is generally more cost-efficient on a per-piece basis. 

Color Matching

If your brand image uses Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors, offset printing has the capabilities to meet those precise specifications. Due to the additive color process of digital printing, exact PMS colors may not be possible.


Offset printing is used in high-end art books, for example, so it can produce very high-quality images and prints compared to digital ones. When your image is absolutely critical, offset may be the right answer. Additional processes like varnishes and aqueous coatings help offset images pop off the page.

Cons of Offset Printing

Longer Lead Times

Offset printing is more labor and technology-intensive in the pre-press setup. There’s a considerable upfront investment in time and cost to support creating plates. There’s a longer turnaround time due to the labor involved in the pre-press stage.


Also, it’s less forgiving of changes or mistakes. The pre-press operation must be redone to change even a word on a page. The file has to be changed, and the plates recreated to make the correction.

Choosing the Best Printing Method for Your Healthcare Communications

As we said at the beginning, the best printing method depends on your project. In fact, it’s not always an either-or choice.

Let’s recap. Digital printing is the cost-effective choice for quicker-turn small batch printing, whereas offset printing offers economies of scale.

If you need precisely sharp images and absolutely consistent colors, choose offset.

However, if the project requires personalization, choose digital. For rapid turnarounds, digital is the best bet.

For some projects, you can take advantage of the benefits of each type. For example, you could print an annual directory in large quantities to serve the bulk of your clients. Then, you could use digital printing for smaller runs as information changes or clients join the plan.

The digital printing arena is continuously evolving, so work with a printing partner that stays current on the latest developments. The answers to your questions today may change in the very near future.

Whatever printing partner you choose, it’s ideal that they have the capability to offer both offset and digital printing solutions and be HIPPA compliant. Heeter complies with HIPPA to ensure your customer’s health information – print and digital – is fully protected. Employees at Heeter have been trained on the most current HIPAA standards.

Also, Heeter is SOC 2 Type II certified and holds HITRUST CSF certified status, which assures our clients that the necessary protocols are in place to handle their data securely.

Want to learn more about digital vs. offset printing for your healthcare communications? Schedule a 15-minute discovery call with the printing experts at Heeter.