Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why isn’t hospital advertising changing with the times?



I have to admit, this is a pet peeve of mine, disingenuous hospital advertising. In a day and age where healthcare is evolving to a consumer centric, semi-retail model, some hospital marketers and C-suite leadership continue to treat the healthcare consumer like they are incapable of making informed choices.

With the healthcare consumer having a higher cost stake in the process with larger deductibles and co-pays, your price, and outcomes data readily available, it would seem that the time for change has come.

Remember, when you are marketing to individuals, they don't become a patient until they receive a service from you.  So in one-third of the time in their interactions with you, the healthcare consumer is only a "patient" during diagnosis and treatment. Two-thirds of the time they are not patients, and most likely are arguing with your billing department about the charges.

Arguments aside, what should hospitals be advertising to create an unassailable market position, a strong brand, as well as an enlightened and informed consumer?  

Is it the "we are unique and world-class", best doctors, hundreds of locations, even though The Joint Commission was just there for a sentential event?

Our technology is state-of-the-art.  Never mind that a new technology was just introduced and you don't have it.

Another winner; we have the most shiny trophies and quality awards for several services. Oh, and even though we don't have a quality award for all services, if everybody else was as good as us message to go with it, “a 100,000 lives would be saved annually"! Really.

How about the ever present focus on the physicians with messaging about having the best primary care or specialists in the region that drones on about everything other than healthcare.  Prove it.  Maybe the healthcare consumer will take you seriously when you finally report Dr. Hodad and remove him from your medical staff.

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?

It makes the Board, senior management and physicians feel good, while your audience receives absolutely no information that will help them make some of the most critical choices and decisions in their life.

The time has come healthcare providers to provide meaningful information in the marketplace that will allow the healthcare consumer to become informed, educated and participatory in the care decision-making process. 

You should be transparent and talking about your outcomes and prices.  The healthcare consumer is hungry for information and searching the internet as well as 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 model, to a healthcare consumer and patient-directed, controlled model. 

Your choice so chose wisely, the future of your organizations depends on it.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.  Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

1 comment:

DRGA said...

Let's advertise outcomes (until they change for the worse next quarter).

Let's advertise price (when the vast majority of potential patients pay co-pays or deductibles based upon a price negotiated by payors).

Let's bloviate.