Whose Job Is It Anyway?

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, December 12, 2007
In last week's column I wrote about whether or not marketers are getting more involved in the strategic end of running a hospital. That got me thinking about all the things that hospital and health system marketers are--and are not--involved in. Now, I could be biased, but it seems to me a lot of functions aren't necessarily the marketer's job but, nevertheless, he or she has a stake in them.

Take billing and collections. Might not seem like marketing at first blush. But consider the recent story about a hospital that sent a collection agency to hound a homeless and uninsured man for his $42,000 bill. This was just an oversight on the part of the collections department. But imagine what the local readers thought when they read his story.

Now imagine what they think when they get their 13th "reminder" letter from your hospital because they didn't pay a $50 co-pay for an ER visit on time. At a certain point, you'd think the cost of paper, postage, and bad-will would add up to more than $50.

Patient safety and quality are always hot topics, especially when a surgeon operates on the wrong part of someone's brain not once or twice but three times. But aside from the obvious PR nightmare that is wrong-site surgery, is that a marketing issue?

You bet it is. Molly Rowe, a senior editor for HealthLeaders Media, wrote a recent column that will give you a glimpse into what kind of word-of-mouth that story's generating.

In fact, one of the most hotly-contested categories in the 2007 HealthLeaders Media Marketing Awards was the one for best quality campaign. Hospital marketers are indeed talking to their customers about these subjects. And they're finding ways to do it that aren't way over everyone's head, way too technical and boring, or just downright disgusting. I'm sorry, but no one wants to see a hospital ad with the word "pressure ulcer" in it.

Finally, it seems to me that internal communications is no longer an HR-only responsibility. More and more hospital marketing departments are partnering with HR to communicate with and serve employees. This was another crowded category in our annual awards. Many of the entries were for non-smoking campaigns. It's no longer OK to just send around a memo about a policy change. Hospitals that want to keep employee satisfaction high and turnover low launch sophisticated multimedia campaigns instead.

So tell me, what other functions fall under marketing's expanding canopy? Are these additional responsibilities a good thing? Or do they distract from your "real" work? Click that little talk button at the bottom of this page and let me know what you think.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.
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