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Abundance of Healthcare Quality Awards Weakens Marketing Value

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, May 8, 2013

One-third of US hospitals have garnered at least one distinction from a major rating group or company. With so many other organizations receiving similar accolades, how can promoting a top quality award have any real meaning?

I don't come across news articles or press releases touting a hospital or health system's quality scores as often as I used to. So when I came across an article about the quality measures that UT Southwestern Medical Center has decided to post on its website, it got me thinking.

First, the relative lack of media coverage must mean that most organizations are already listing their quality ratings online, are doing so quietly, or are moving away from the practice altogether .


MU proposed rules

Second, I was struck by this seeming contradiction: The medical center's chief quality officer told the reporter, "Some [health systems] put [quality data] out there for marketing reasons. We're just trying to help patients make choices about where they get their healthcare."

While statements like this aren't uncommon, I can't help but roll my eyes at a hospital leader telling a media outlet that he's not doing the thing that's being publicizing for marketing purposes.

But finally, and most importantly, I noticed that the article did not mention of the source of the quality metrics.

Upon further investigation on UT Southwestern's quality webpage, I discovered that it uses data from Hospital Compare, HCAHPS, Press Ganey, the University HealthSystem Consortium, the National Healthcare Safety Network, and the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators.

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1 comments on "Abundance of Quality Awards Weakens Marketing Value"


Mike Spanjar (5/8/2013 at 6:30 PM)
I don't see this as the travesty you've portrayed. Health care marketing is an exceptionally competitive space. Our many health care clients have varying success earning awards. The hospital that receives multiple top ratings from the most distinguished award organizations is proud of its accomplishments and wants to beat its chest so customers feel good about their affiliation with that hospital (and so the neighboring hospital system's customers take notice). The center that receives middling accolades is anxious to see how it can leverage them. The fees these organizations charge to use their logos or reproduce results don't negate the validity of the awards. Many have extraordinarily rigid criteria. Further, I believe consumers deserve to know where the quality hospitals are, regardless of which one has the most memorable advertising. Yes, we develop emotional campaigns. They, too, are important as part of the mix. But just try to tell a stellar hospital to keep their awards to themselves. Not gonna happen.