Major healthcare institutions and insurance companies spending big bucks on advertising

The business of healthcare has undergone major changes over the past two decades. The market is expected to change with the passage of Obama care and the aging of the population. Patients are who are hospitalized is staying shorter lengths of stays, and elective surgery is now being offering on the weekends. Another aspect of healthcare is that more and more healthcare institutions are spending big advertising budgets to attract and educate patients.

Every one of the leading healthcare institutions in the New York City marketplace is currently advertising. A number of healthcare leaders consider the advertising as a source of branding of their institutions as well as a means to attract patients to their institutions. Spokesman who include former Mayor Ed Koch as well as other patients are frequently appearing in all forms of advertising.

HealthLeaders Media reported "there is a certain finesse to choose the right celebrity spokesperson for any organization, but it is an especially lofty task for a hospital. The actor or sports figures (usually they are film stars or professional athletes) must be well known, but not too flashy; relatable, but respected, amiable, but competent and informed."

Former gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton is the new celebrity spokeswomen for Morgantown West Virginia Hospital, reported the Associated Press. She has appeared on television, radio and print ads.

In a recent issue of Protocol, a healthcare marketing report discusses the advantages of having a strong and consistent brand. In the article titled "Why Branding Still Matters for Hospital Marketers, "Protocol examines four reasons branding should remain a priority in the healthcare industry:

  1. Strong healthcare brands control their own destinies;
  2. A clear brand position aligns physicians and staff,
  3. Brand tools ensure consistent communications; and
  4. Branding supports multichannel and social media initiatives.

"Building a strong brand isn't easy, especially for healthcare organizations that once held a monopoly for care, and increasing financial exposure is making patients more likely to question the cost or need for expansive medical care", said, Mark Shipley, President and Chief Strategic Officer of Smith & Jones, the publisher of Protocol. "Hospitals are now forced to brand and market their services to retain even their local consumers care spending'.

The accounting and consulting firm of PwC report urges academic medical centers to enhance their brands by holding faculty accountable for cost and quality.

Academic medical centers also can build their brands globally through affiliations or acquisitions. "As the world become richer, people want to spend their money on education and health so it's very appropriate for Academic Medical Centers to have a global strategy, " Stephen M. Cohen, executive vice provost at New York's Weill Cornell Medical College, says in the report.

While public health care policy and the factors that influence consumer preference and purchasing decisions about health insurance are rapidly shifting, the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend (EQ) study finds that brand equity remains strong among the top-ranked health insurers.

"The definition of consumer is 'one that consumes'," says Debra Richman, Senior Vice President of Healthcare Business Development & Strategy at Harris Interactive, "More than ever before, consumers are paying increased attention to their health care options and selecting products and services they prefer to consume. As a result, positive brand recognition has become and will increasingly be critically important."

Richman notes, "Consumer behavior in health care is beginning to mirror how consumers behave when making other purchasing decisions, whether for consumer goods or financial services. Consumers are evaluating brand equity, user experience, convenience, and product or service value." Among the ten competitive brands included in the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend study, Blue Cross Blue Shield emerges as the top-ranked health insurer. This is the third consecutive year Blue Cross Blue Shield has earned the Health Insurance Brand of the Year accolade. United Healthcare places second and regional insurer, HealthNet, secures third place in this consumer-choice study

"Brand reputation is now one of the key criteria when selecting a health plan-this is especially important in a market where benefits and costs may be similar, which will definitely be the case in an insurance-exchange environment. Those companies with strong brand equity will be well-positioned to take advantage of such market changes and successfully differentiate themselves among competitors," Richman concludes.

Posted on December 18, 2012 .