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Lessons from European Healthcare Marketing (Or the Lack Thereof)

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, July 28, 2010

At first, I couldn't decide if this was refreshing or troublesome. A good portion of healthcare marketing in the United States revolves around physician referrals and word-of-mouth, after all. But what if a cancer sufferer in Spain decided to go to the local hospital his neighbor suggested, when, unbeknownst to him, there was a great specialist just two towns over?

It comes down to consumer knowledge and choice. In the UK, most people figure each hospital is more or less the same because they are all government-run and therefore held to the same standards, but it's not necessarily the case, as these anecdotal experiences suggest.

For me, this realization was a pertinent reminder about the important work that hospital marketers do. In addition to promoting business goals and driving patient volume to key service lines, marketers do the crucial job of letting the public know what services they offer and in which areas they excel. And to do that well, marketers need more tools at their fingertips than physician referrals and word of mouth; print, outdoor, TV, and radio advertising are crucial to communicating vital information to potential patients.

True, many European countries have created more efficient and easily accessible healthcare systems than what we have stateside. But when it comes to educating and informing the public about the best organizations to receive care, American marketers are a step ahead.

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