Teaching hospitals ramp up advertising to gain clinicians, patients

With medical centers spending 20 percent more on advertising in 2011, more hospitals are beefing up their marketing campaigns, especially academic medical centers--the newcomers to the national advertising world, NPR reports. Once thought of as a dirty word in the teaching hospital universe, marketing at these organizations aim to attract faculty and students, as well as patients in hopes they will travel to their facilities.

Top ad spenders include leading organizations Mayo Clinic, Mount Sinai and New York Presbyterian.

Feeling particularly pinched by reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, teaching hospitals are setting their sights beyond their typical geographic area, NPR notes. For example, marketing newcomer Vanderbilt University Medical Center last year bought sponsorships on CNN, Fox News and NPR, the article notes.

"We think of it almost as a service to the public, to get the word out," Vanderbilt Chief Marketing Officer Jill Austin said in the article.

Although goals for recruitment, fundraising and patient volume are certainly reasons to promote the teaching hospitals, some wonder whether the dollars are worth it.

"...During a time in health care where dollars are precious, I don't believe those would be the key reasons for a national campaign," Joel English of the Milwaukee-based marketing firm BVK said in the article.

With more advertising dollars spent, hospitals also are trying to stand out with a new strategy, that is, branding the hospital. The strategy is "to focus on the benefit of the hospital (we help you live longer) versus the features that they have (great technology, world class physicians) that all other hospitals claim to have as well," Paul Amelchenko, the creative director at BFW Advertising in Boca Raton, Fla., previously told The New York Times.

In addition, Jenn Riggle, associate vice president and social media leader of the Health Practice at CRT/tanaka and Hospital Impact blogger, suggested having a clear, focused message to building the hospital's reputation and services.

For more information:
- read the NPR article

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