At first, I really couldn’t believe what I was reading:
“The decline of medicine as a profession began,” according to the blog post, “when it became legal for doctors and hospitals to advertise.”
Really? Now that’s an effective, attention-getting lead sentence, especially for a seasoned healthcare marketing professional like myself. Evidently, the demise of modern medicine was at hand, and I had missed the fireworks.
The author’s point was that doctors and hospitals shouldn’t advertise, and if it all “disappeared tomorrow, we would all be better off.” This turned out to be an intriguing article. In the kindest of terms, it was way off base for many reasons. But interesting and intriguing nonetheless. Let me tell you about it and you can decide if reality and reason answers rant.
The scathing indictment of healthcare advertising turns out to be a couple years old. A doctor—evidently a senior-level surgeon who does not provide his name—wrote it. Between “decline of medicine” and “better off without advertising,” his key points included:
At first read, I pictured a cranky doctor-author with a residual bitterness from ineffective Yellow Page ads a few decades ago. (Maybe? Maybe not? Just guessing.) What’s more, the points in his issue list likely resonate with some doctors, particularly those providers who have limited experience with marketing and advertising.
To be clear, I don’t agree with the “Dr. Anonymous” premise that doctor/hospital advertising launched the decline of the medical profession, or the conclusion (in my words) that it should disappear for the greater good of mankind.
But, upon closer consideration, his passionate article does make some valid observations about (bad) doctor and hospital advertising when it comes across as: “needy, cheesy, sleazy or greedy.” Thus, I have to agree that bad advertising is bad.
You can find the anonymous surgeon-blogger online; we understand he’s a prolific author and frequent Twitter-writer. His thoughtful-but-off base post inspired me to revisit the sometimes-bumpy intersection of doctors vs. advertising.
The wide availability, and the coming of age of the Internet, along with dynamic societal and regulatory shifts (namely the Affordable Care Act), has caused the nation’s healthcare delivery system to reinvent itself.
Among many changes is the emergence of an empowered and informed patient-consumer. Advertising, marketing, medical practice websites and blogs, social media (such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter) and other communications pathways promote prevention, healthy living and lifestyles, facilitate patient education, extend public awareness of available services, and many other benefits for consumers, families and caregivers.
In addition, hospitals, providers and insurance companies are increasingly transparent regarding costs and financial information. Patient surveys and satisfaction data for hospitals and doctors are widely available online, free of charge.
For doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers, ethical and high-quality marketing a business essential that communicates a branded message, extends professional reputation, and assists patients with important healthcare decisions.
Contemporary healthcare marketing and advertising:
So, in conclusion, I have to answer the good doctor’s article: NO, WE WOULD NOT be better off if advertising by doctors and hospitals disappeared tomorrow. In fact, we—meaning everyone—would be unaware, uninformed and badly disadvantaged as patients and consumers.
We’d like to hear from you on this topic. Would the nation’s healthcare system, and you and I as individuals, be better off if all hospital and doctor advertising disappeared tomorrow? What improvements would you like to see evolve in healthcare advertising? Is there a better way? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
If you need an ethical, evidence-based marketing plan—one that you can feel comfortable with—please contact us, and we’ll talk. And, for related reading, see these previous posts: