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."