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In Defense of Hospital Ad Spending

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 19, 2012

Ads as patient education
I've spoken to hundreds of hospital marketers over the years. Ask any one of them the most important aspect of their marketing strategy, and each one will point to patient education. 

Without targeted advertising, a patient may not know he or she can receive cancer treatment closer to home, or that his or her community medical center is holding a lecture series on diabetes management, or that his or her primary care provider now uses an online patient portal.

Marketing and advertising is "core to our mission to educate the public," Missouri Hospital Association spokesman David Dillon told the Post-Dispatch. And I think you'll find that most hospitals and health systems include patient education in their organization's mission as well. It's difficult to care for the community if they don't know who you are, what you stand for, and the services you provide.

St. Louis University Hospital spokesperson Laura Keller told the paper that hospitals advertise for noble reasons as well as realistic ones.

"I don't think it ever hurts to remind someone that there are lots of choices that you have if you're dealing with a major health issue," she says. "We need to educate the patient, and there are good messages there. On the business side, people need to understand that without money we cannot support our mission."

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3 comments on "In Defense of Hospital Ad Spending"


Erick Kinuthia (12/24/2012 at 1:30 AM)
Good document.Use of social media in marketing of medical services remains to be important. Erick Kinuthia Team MDwebpro.com

Jeff Cole (12/19/2012 at 8:08 PM)
The problem with the pro-marketing argument is that - with the exception of emergency care - the vast majority of patients do not choose the hospital in which they are treated. We all have to go the hospital where out doctor has privileges. In Wisconsin, each hospital chain is buying up medical practices. There are very few independent physicians left. The doctors who work for the chains have to send their patients to their employers' facilities. So what good does it do for a hospital to advertise? There is choosing which hospital one can go to.

Charles F (12/19/2012 at 5:15 PM)
I believe we are less than three years from seeing the end of this debate. Currently, healthcare advertising is service line oriented, simply because that is how nearly all hospitals break down their budgets. And it makes sense from their business perspective, since adding a specialist in one field means the hospital needs to generate revenue in that field to maximize their investment. But, as I understand it, as healthcare reform takes hold and each hospital's revenue model changes, marketing will shift toward finding patients (the healthier the better) to, quite simply, keep healthy. Hospitals won't advertise knee replacements because doing so may cost them money. The referral network will be the driver for specialized services, and traditional advertising efforts will be aimed at attracting people who want to stay healthy, and providing them with the tools, networks and knowledge to stay healthy.