Readers Write

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, April 16, 2008

It’s been a while since I opened up the mailbag and shared its contents with you, but over the past few months readers have weighed in on several issues, from new media to HCAHPS to physician relations to monkeys. As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts, opinions, and expertise--and keep those letters coming.

On new media
Yes, I would love to start incorporating new media into our marketing [The New Marketing Mix, April 9, 2008] but it is still a struggle getting departments to even have a presence on the Web site.

I am a marketing director at a rural hospital with a small staff (one other employee). Technology and how it can be used is often a leap that the majority of people don’t think about in rural areas. I’m an early adopter and I could see potential for Internet since day one. But it takes a while for the rest to catch up. I hope we get to that tipping point because with technology, if you don’t adopt early you are behind and it takes so much more effort to catch up.

Another issue is first I have to educate myself on these new media options before I try to educate my superiors. I know that we won’t be hiring additional FTEs so anything we try will be my responsibility. After you can get their approval then you have to educate the directors in the product line area about the new mediums and how they can be used. I call this the cheerleading phase. Then there is the actual production on top of maintaining all the other forms of marketing that we can’t seem to let go of or reduce.

Meanwhile, I still plug away at some departments to just consider getting a presence on the Web site. Others I try to coax away from just doing the same old ads in the paper and branch out a little. Others we try to give them data to show the importance of establishing relationships through outreach clinics and other community events. And yes, I’m trying to get one department to think about YouTube and podcasting. There are too many options to reach the healthcare community today and so little time and staff. We do what we can. It’s exciting to me but sometimes daunting.

(Name withheld at reader’s request.)

On coffee shop talk
To answer your question about a year from now (or next week for that matter): What will people say about which hospital has the most satisfied patients? I guess it depends on who’s in the coffee shop [Word-of-Mouth With a Bullhorn, April 2, 2008]. But in general you’ll get the same blank stares—they won’t know because 9 out of 10 wouldn’t have a reason to know. Most people don’t go to hospitals on a routine basis and they’re not engaged in their healthcare. But for those patients that are engaged and search this information out, it will only be a starting point and will compel them to look for more information, just like with any other Web search.

All in all it’s a good first step and, as you point out, for the average consumer the experience far out weighs any clinical outcome or mortality data that are published. Kudos to Alabama, that state with the best overall satisfaction, and it looks like Hawaii needs some help.

Kevin Lieb
Director, provider programs
J.D. Power and Associates, Healthcare Division
Westlake Village, CA

On physician stars
I just read your column on improving physician relations [Seven Simple Ways to Improve Physician Relations, March 5, 2008]. One thing that worries me in the article is the suggestion to make physicians "stars" in hospital advertising. I generally do not advocate this for a couple of reasons.

First, unless the physicians are employed by the health system, this can get hospitals in serious trouble with the Stark regulations. Second, there is always the danger that a hospital may invest in building the personas of "star" physicians, only to have the physician leave and set up shop with a competitor. (This happens to academic medical centers more than community hospitals, and can be devastating to a clinical program such as oncology or neurosurgery).

Patrick T. Buckley
President, PB Healthcare Business Solutions LLC
Pewaukee, WI

On training monkeys
You call it monkey-see, monkey-do in your latest column [Monkey Business, February 20, 2008]. I call it “me-tooism.” Whatever the moniker, your article hit close to home.

I’ve been talking about this topic for more than 30 years. Here’s a real-life example I use. A hospital administrator—frustrated with physicians throwing brochures and ads on his desk from competitors—used to respond this way: “Doctor, are you telling me that you would take your patient elsewhere because of an ad, mailer, or brochure? I would hope that you would recommend patients to the hospital that has been best quality, customer service, and staff—not a hospital that prints up pretty publications and ads.”

Every time, the particular physician would walk sheepishly out of the administrator’s office.

Marketing is not and has never been about pretty ads or prize-winning brochures. Marketing is the sum total of impressions, experiences, and the relationships people have with your healthcare organization.

It’s not about big ads … it’s about big ideas.

Rhoda Weiss
Rhoda Weiss & Associates, Santa Monica, CA
Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America
Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at


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