Hospitals, celebs join forces to improve brand, volume

With more patients choosing health insurers based on brand reputation, hospitals are finding that choosing the right celebrity spokesperson can enhance their organization's image, as well boost patient volume, according to a HealthLeaders Media article.

For example, the University of Kansas Hospital hired a celebrity spokesperson to carry the message of its advertising campaign and distinguish its academic medicine and patient care from other teaching hospitals.

"The celebrity is not the star; our medicine is the star," Julie Amor, the hospital's vice president of marketing, told HealthLeaders. "So we needed to make sure that this person first and foremost was an advocate for academic medicine and second, whose presence enhanced but did not overshadow the message."

For hospitals considering celebrity endorsements to attract patients in today's competitive healthcare environment, the key takeaway is that choosing a spokesperson with qualities and characteristics that correspond with the hospital (and it's culture) is more important than "star-power," the article noted.

Advertising dollars spent on celebrity endorsement seem to pay off. Since 2002, University of Kansas Hospital saw discharges climb 56 percent, unaided recall--whether patients know the hospital's name without prompts--rose 38.5 percent, along with a steady increase in volume.

Hoping to see similar success, Mon General Hospital in Morgantown, W.V., hired gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton as its new celebrity spokeswoman, reported the Associated Press. A health and nutrition advocate, Retton will be featured in TV commercials and radio and print ads for the hospital.

Similarly, Wisconsin's Aurora HealthCare is teaming up with celebrity chef Michael Feker to deliver cost-effective and healthy food to patients, caregivers and the community of Aurora Sinai, one of Milwaukee's inner-city hospitals, according to today's announcement.

For more:
- read the HealthLeaders article
- here's the AP article
- read the Aurora HealthCare announcement