That question of course, assumes that you believe hospital advertising is appropriate. And you may well believe that it is also a waste of resources. Which I think is a most dangerous position, given the ongoing transformation of the healthcare market from a provider-directed to a consumer-directed or as some prefer a patient -directed model.
Arguments aside, what should hospitals be advertising to create an unassailable market position, a strong brand, as well as an enlightened and informed consumer? Remember, when you are marketing to consumers, they don't become a patient until they receive a service from you. So three-quarters of the time in their interactions with you, the "consumer" is only a "patient" during diagnosis and treatment.
Should it be being the best at all things or a category of service?
How about having the most current technology?
Maybe it could be who has the most quality awards and highest patient satisfaction?
Or, it could focus on the physicians with messaging about having the best specialists in the region?
Then, there is the here are the insurance plans we accept, followed by the, we have big screen TVs and private rooms.
I think, that pretty much for the most part, sums up the current state of hospital advertising. And when several hospitals are staying all of these things at the same time in a market, do you really believe that the consumer is paying any attention at all, when there is so little differentiation, it all looks like "me too" and just shouting for attention?
I am sure it makes the Board, senior management and physicians feel good. All the while your target audience receives absolutely no information that will help them make some of the most critical choices and decisions in their life.
And that can't go on any longer.
Time really to stop treating the healthcare consumer like they are some kind of idiot. People are coming to the realization that healthcare is not such the "black box that the consumer can't possibly understand the complexity of medical care".
It's time for meaningful information in the marketplace that will allow the healthcare consumer to become informed, educated and participatory in the care decision-making process. Time for marketing to begin to lead in hospitals instead of being order takers, and talking nonsense in their markets.
You should be transparent and talking about your outcomes. You need to engage in a meaningful dialogue that gives individuals the information that they want and need. The healthcare consumer is hungry for information and are searching the internet and other sources about you and how you perform. They are paying more of the cost. Demanding more say in what goes on. And don't like being treated like they are some small child who can't make a decision.
To use an often quoted metaphor, the wave of change is upon the hospital industry as we move from provider-dominated and controlled decision-making, to consumer and patient-directed, controlled healthcare. Your choice, change, be responsive and surf the wave to success, or be washed over and deposited on the ash heap of history.
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