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The Disheartening Dyssynchrony of Hospital Marketing and Operations

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

[Guest Post by Dr. Paul Rosen]

Guy getting hit in the face with a basketballI took my kids to a Philadelphia 76ers game a few weeks ago. The Sixers lost to the Boston Celtics. The Sixers have been doing a lot of losing actually. They finished the season with 10 wins and 72 losses, giving them the worst record of any team in the NBA.

I have to say, however, the marketing team for the Sixers is amazing.

Before the game there were dramatic videos of the Sixers' past and future successes. There were videos of great Sixers players from decades past. There was a video of the owner talking about the bright future of the team.

The marketing team even linked the Sixers fighting spirit to the grittiness of the city and to the grittiness of the forefathers from 1776. The marketing story was magnificent. But then the videos ended, and the game began. Final score: Philadelphia 76ers: 105; Boston Celtics: 120.

Many hospitals also have stellar marketing teams.

Over the past 15 years, we have all seen and heard ads about the hospital’s commitment to family-centered care. Billboards, radio ads, TV ads, and online ads have espoused the same message in various slogans: “Patients first,” “Patient-centered care,” “We treat the patient and the whole family,” “We treat you like a person.”

The problem is, when you get past the marketing team messages and experience the actual operations, you may discover a mismatch between what is being espoused and the game you see on the court.

The infractions may be big and small. Examples include:

  • Giving a patient less than 24-hours notice for a time of surgery based on OR staff convenience.
  • Making a family wake up at 4 AM to get to the hospital for an early surgery based on surgeon convenience.
  • Doctor parking closer to the front door than patient parking.
  • 3 AM blood draws.
  • 5 AM wound check by a surgery resident.
  • Lack of opportunity for families to participate in rounds in person or remotely.
  • ERs not adopting best practices to fix their waiting queues.
  • Lack of text and e-mail communication.
  • Restrictive visiting hour policies that are based on system-centered convenience.
  • Several month waits for subspecialty care.

The marketing silo and the operations silo should come together so that what is advertised is really what is delivered. The public will no longer respond to generic, patient-centered care slogans. They now want to see the facts. What are the real ER wait times? What are the hand-washing rates? What do the crowd-sourced patient reviews say about the doctors?

Hospital marketing and hospital operations should work closely to close the gap between advertisement and healthcare delivery.

Until then, we will keep seeing linkages between Ben Franklin, Moses Malone, and a 10-72 record.

Paul Rosen, MD


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