Public questions expensive hospital ads during tough times

It's no secret that hospitals everywhere are feeling the repercussions of the down economy, as well as reimbursement cuts. In the midst of some job layoffs and closed facilities, the public is questioning why hospitals are shelling out the big bucks for advertising.

For example, New York healthcare institutions spent $80 million in advertising this year, up from $69.3 million last year, according to a Crain's article yesterday.

"We don't see it as an expense; we think of it as a strategic investment," said David Feinberg, vice president of marketing at New York-Presbyterian, which recently launched regional 60-second TV commercials.

However, New York's uptick in advertising might not reflect the national trend, according to Joel English, managing director of hospital-marketing firm BVK in Milwaukee, who said two-thirds of its clients have curbed their advertising dollars this year.

Increasingly, hospitals are also using free online social media tools as an alternative to the traditional marketing methods of print and television ads. However, Managing Director Jane Donohue of the market research firm YouGov Healthcare cautions healthcare executives to commit to social media with a full-time equivalent, which comes with its own costs.

"In a perfect world, these dollars would be spent on improving patient care," said David Sandman, senior vice president of the nonprofit policy think tank New York State Health Foundation, in the article. "In the real world, empty beds don't generate revenues, and advertising that results in increased patient volume can be a rational investment."

For more information:
- read the Crain's article