Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are hospital advertisements misleading by nature?

This is my favorite time of the year in hospital marketing.  New budgets and campaigns in 2015, allowing hospital marketers to bring new messaging to market for physician referral, centers of excellence, awards, technology and building opening campaigns.  All promoting something that the healthcare consumers for no other reason other than “believe us” messaging, should call the number or visit a web site.

My best hospital/health system advertisement in 2015 so far, “Why would you trust your brain to anyone else?” This is an advertisement sticker on the front of a newspaper.  The question posed by the hospital is probably being answered by the healthcare consumer with the question, “So why should I trust my brain to you?”  

And that goes along with the “we have everything from world class physicians to the all the tools to treat cancer”.  I guess it matters not that the competitor down the street has a proton therapy center for cancer treatment, and the advertising hospital doesn’t. Minor detail.

And that is the core of the challenge.

While traditional approaches and messaging to marketing the hospital and health system continue unabated, much to the delight of agencies, newspaper outlets, cable, traditional TV and radio outlets and others, the healthcare consumer is left scratching their head since its looks and feels so much the same for all the hospitals’  in a market.

The healthcare consumer is searching for information on the hospital or health system that includes brand reputation, price and outcomes data, and patient testimonials in order to make a healthcare purchase decision.  They are finding the information elsewhere. What they are finding doesn’t match with the message. And that doesn’t foster or create trust.

It’s a new business model for hospital and health system operations and marketing.

Health care is evolving into a retail driven, consumer focused medical market and that means new approaches.  A new transparency based on price, outcomes and the value that the healthcare consumer receives. It’s not about logos, awards, vague claims or misleading advertisements. It is about being healthcare consumer focused and meeting their needs with usable, transparent, actionable information, not hospital centric messaging that makes the Board, physicians and senior management feel great about them.

What should be communicated?

By the placing of context around the content of how that awards makes the hospital a quality provider of care in that category of care, not all categories.   The marketing and messaging needs to support the brand and brand message as well differentiating the hospital from competitors.  For the new market environment and healthcare business model, price, quality data, accessibility, convenience and testimonials for the healthcare consumer, is the new marketing currency. The healthcare consumer wants to be able to trust the hospital. The healthcare consumer wants to make a good decision.  Listen to what the healthcare consumer is asking for in the way of information from the hospital. Give information and solutions, not “trust me” promises and all encompassing claims.  No one believes it anymore.

Is the hospital listening?

In most cases healthcare advertisements and other channel communications are the primary contact that a consumer has that starts the experience process.   Talk to the audience in meaningful ways. Educate. Teach. Inform. Change opinion.   Tell them why the quality award is important and what it means to them. Frame the experience and setup the clinical service or physician by providing actionable information in terms the healthcare consumer can understand.

Winning healthcare marketers are driving growth by increasing their precision, broadening their scope, reacting quickly and telling a better story.

Respond to the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the needs of the hospital.  In doing so the hospital needs for growth and revenue will be met.

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