Case study: How a Calif. foundation got consumers to use hospital comparison data

While at least 200 databases now exist offering consumers a chance to compare the quality ratings and prices of various area hospitals, to date only one-fifth of patients are even aware that such data exists, according to a study by the California HealthCare Foundation. Recently, the foundation decided to change all of that: They currently are developing a marketing strategy to persuade consumers to become aware of, and take advantage of, such research.

To form a model that might work for hospital comparison databases nationwide, the foundation developed a strategy around its own effort--the CalHospitalCompare.org site--encouraging pregnant women to use the site to evaluate maternity care at their community hospitals. (Bonus points to the editors for naming the final report "From Here to Maternity.")

To build traffic, the group used a variety of approaches, including banners on news-related websites and community sites such as Yelp and Citysearch, and keyword-based advertising on Google and Yahoo.

The campaign, which increased traffic to the CalHospitalCompare.org site dramatically, suggested that raising awareness for such sites requires identifying and understanding the target market; offering a range of ads with varied types of copy to broaden the appeal to varied groups; using search engine optimization and targeted keywords; tracking the cost-effectiveness of each approach; and considering an ongoing investment to keep interest high.

To learn more about this research:
- read the CHCF report (.pdf)

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