Hospitals boost ad spending to help patients choose care

Thirty acute care hospitals in Connecticut spent almost $30 million on advertising in fiscal year 2010, up 18 percent from the year before, according to data from the state's Office of Health Care Access, reported the Hartford Business Journal.

Danbury Hospital's ad budget soared 147 percent to $2.1 million, as John Dempsey Hospital increased advertising dollars by 88 percent to $1.8 million, noted to the article. Hartford Hospital's $2.9 million ad budget jumped 38 percent from the previous year.

With healthcare consumers becoming more involved in the decision-making process, hospitals directed a lot of their ad dollars toward educational materials that give patients more information about specific clinical services and treatments.

"The key to good advertising is giving consumers information that they need to make better choices," James Blazar, Hartford Healthcare's senior vice president and chief strategy officer, told the Hartford Business Journal

Keeping in mind increased patient involvement, the hospitals focused on making their websites more interactive. "Traditionally hospital websites were talking at people," Bill Field, president of Mintz & Hoke Communications Group said in the article. "Now they are becoming far more inclusive so that patients see and feel the brand."

But hospitals should think twice before launching more ad campaigns. Public health experts are criticizing a Georgia hospital for anti-obesity ads featuring obese child actors, reported the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

However, before Children's Healthcare of Atlanta launched its statewide billboard, radio and television campaign, the hospital held focus groups and performed market research. The hospital found that 80 percent "agree with" the approach, while 11 percent "do not like the campaign's message," noted the article.

"It's not negative advertising," the hospital's surgeon-in-chief Mark Wulkan told the Times Free Press. "It's shock value, and it's getting people's attention."

To learn more:
- read the Hartford Business Journal article
- here's the Times Free Press article