This isn't hypothetical anymore. For better or for worse, we, as a healthcare marketing professionals, continue to use terminology in our campaigns like best doctors, centered around you, university level healthcare, world class, highest care, etc., all in an effort to differentiate us from the guy down the street. Attempting to create the brand impression that we somehow we are different, without every really saying anything. Except for making a lot of claims.
So now, a savvy healthcare consume, grabs the ad, and walks into your faculty and says, "Show me". "Show me the data that proves the claims that you are making." "Show me the patient satisfaction scores." "Show me the data that proves you provide University level healthcare." "Show me how your outcomes are different from the guy down the street."
Healthcare is entering a new phase in 2012. A phase with the actual implementation of ACOs, Medicare and private. The Supreme Court ruling on the PPACA. Budget reductions and sure to follow Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement reductions. And that is just to name a few.
This also means that as a starter to attract patients, aka the healthcare consumer, you will need more than trite slogans or messaging that make you feel good in your marketing campaigns. You are going to have to talk about outcomes whether you like it or not. And that means having the data available to prove your claims.
Besides, just because you're a Not-for-Profit, doesn't mean that you are not subject to the same Truth-in-Advertising laws and regulations under the Federal Trade Commission like everyone else. And for far too long, many NFP healthcare organizations have gotten away with it.
With the Justice Department taking a more aggressive stance by looking more closely at healthcare mergers and affiliations, your advertising becomes a focal point.
So really, it's time to clean it up. Time to stop viewing healthcare marketing as advertising and making things look pretty. Time to move marketing from the basement to the C-Suite. You're not a cottage industry anymore.
To not do so, is taking financial, brand and image risks that are avoidable.
What will be your reaction to a consumer walking in your doors and holding up that ad and saying, "Show me"?
Welcome to 2012, the year when things really change.