Hospitals spend big bucks on advertising. Here’s a look at the cost of 8 ad campaigns

FierceHealthcare takes a look at eight advertising campaigns from big-name hospitals and healthcare systems. Ascension Health's advertisement focused on telling patients how easily its primary care offerings can fit into their busy day-to-day lives. (Ascension)

Ascension Health wants patients to know how easily its primary care offerings can fit into their busy day-to-day lives. Johns Hopkins Medicine is promoting how hard they'll work to get patients in their orthopedic and sports medicine programs back to normal activity quickly after treatment.

As the industry continues to focus on a consumer-centric care model, they are among health systems increasingly trying to connect directly with patients through TV spots highlighting what makes their services different. The message from these health systems is clear: You have the power to choose, and you should pick us.

Providers have recognized that patients have more room to make choices than in the past, Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist for advertising consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, told FierceHealthcare.


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“Hospitals themselves are sort of trying to influence the consumer and their decisions in terms of getting care,” Fratrik said. “Ten, 20 years ago ... you went to the hospital your doctor told you to go to. There’s a little bit more choice available with the internet.”

RELATED: Slideshow—A look at the cost of 8 hospital ad campaigns

Fratrik is one of the authors of a BIA/Kelsey report published last year that tracks advertising spend in healthcare. Healthcare providers spent upwards of $10 billion on advertising in 2017, and Fratrik said that figure isn't likely to drop any time soon. The analysis projects healthcare organizations’ spending on ads will continue to grow at a rate of about 1.8% each year, reaching $11.56 billion by 2021.

BIA/Kelsey will update its report this fall, but Fratrik said preliminary data suggests that spending on marketing across a number of industries grew less than researchers expected, due to cutbacks in industries such retail and automobiles. Those cutbacks didn't extend to the healthcare sector, however.

RELATED: Fundraising campaigns in the spotlight—St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the top TV ad spender in April 2017

The majority of that is in traditional forms of advertising—television spots, direct mailers or newspaper ads—making for about $8.7 billion in 2017. But interest in digital advertising is growing as more and more patients move online, and expect providers to follow, Fratrik said. The group projects, for example, that mobile ads will rival print newspaper ads by 2021, making for 5.8% compared to 7.3% amid a diminishing focus on traditional forms of advertising.

The report estimates $2.1 billion in digital advertising spend for 2017, and that could reach $2.9 billion by 2021.

The data also includes a look at how much hospitals are spending to draw in new customers in some of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. In New York, for example, hospitals spent $16.52 per capita on advertising, while in Houston that figure reached $19.81 per capita.

To get a better picture of just how much hospitals are spending on certain spots, FierceHealthcare compiled data provided by, which tracks advertising spend across a number of different industries. The map below details a few case studies on ad spend.

RELATED: Mayo Clinic’s new social media campaign highlights the patient experience in patients’ own voices

We looked at ads that some big-name providers aired in the last year. For some, spend on certain clips was in the millions. iSpot TV calculates “media spend” based on value of the ads and the air times they were on television, but that may not necessarily indicate total dollar value spent, as airtime may have been donated or discounted.

Advertising from healthcare companies has become the norm, Fratrik said, though that hasn’t always been the case. As these groups throw more money at advertising campaigns, consumers just get used to the idea, he said.

“It’s well-understood that health services are like any other type of product or service that competes for more customers,” Fratrik said.


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