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Don't Let Marketing Language Mislead Patients

Anna Webster, for HealthLeaders Media, June 8, 2011

Using outside sources to validate material is another method to ensure accurate and balanced information. If clinicians or providers do not have time to review marketing materials, marketers can use third-party accredited sources to validate information, advises Elizabeth L. Scott, Principal Stategist for Raven New Media. The third-party option also helps marketers keep their materials fresh as the industry changes and new medical information becomes available.

"This information usually comes bundled in a health information encyclopedia, health risk assessments or service line information. If fed into your website dynamically, the information should be current and refreshed as needed by the source," Scott explained.

Marketers do not need reminders to point out the positives of a particular service. Keeping accurate information in check is also important, even if it means telling the potential patient the risks. In terms of the robotic surgery marketing information that is on many hospital websites, perhaps there should be an added disclaimer such as the one listed at the bottom of the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital website:

As with any surgical procedure, individual results may vary. Benefits of minimally invasive surgery cannot be guaranteed as surgery is both patient and procedure specific.


Questions? Comments? Story ideas? Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at awebster@hcpro.com.
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2 comments on "Don't Let Marketing Language Mislead Patients"


Kris Beldin (6/10/2011 at 4:40 PM)
Great article. It is a real concern that many of us as consumers/patients don't think about, particularly when it is a hospital doing the marketing. I hear ads for robotic surgery as you mentioned and I too come away thinking it's a great procedure with very few side effects or risks. As a PR person for a healthcare provider it has been eye opening for me to understand the potential risks of a great story I want to pitch. I always have to remember that we are liable for any claims we make in our stories or pitches – and it's a big difference from when I worked in the tech space, while we had to be accurate and honest, the same liabilities just weren't there. Thanks for the good article.

Simon Sikorski, M.D. Twitter @medmarketingcoe (6/10/2011 at 7:02 AM)
This is a great article and very timely advice. Health care providers, hospitals, and medical organizations should really pay attention. Most of the time the issues identified in this article are due to the lack of involvement of the health care providers. Moving forward their voices are expected in marketing communications, education, CME, etc. Don't just rely on PR & Marketing departments. Get your health care providers involved.