Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hospitals and Doctors - “You Might Say We Own The Joint”

On ABC news radio, Hartford Hospital ran an ad extolling the fact that it had done more joint replacements than any other Connecticut hospital. The Hartford Hospital ad punch line was “You might say we own the joint.” That’s a clever play on words. I congratulate the Hartford Hospital marketing department or its ad agency.

Then I picked up the New York Times, only to be confronted by two full page ads. I would guess these ads costs $75,000 to $100,000 to run. The Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ran them.

• The Baylor ad contains nearly a full page picture of the legendary Michael DeBakey, MD, 90 year old + heart and vascular surgeon who made heart and vascular surgery what it is today – one of the most life saving and profitable service lines offered by major medical centers.

• The UPMC ad features its technologic achievements – national leader in health research, heart valve replacement and repair, organ transplantation, and advances in gene therapy and tissue engineering.

We need our volume-based centers, our doctor heroes, and our top-notch research institutions. It helps hospital businesses to publicize them. The ads are further evidence of the technological-based medical arms race between major hospital systems.

America hospitals derive 80% to 90% of profit-margins from orthopedic surgery, cardiovascular procedures, and a few other procedurally-based specialties. These specialty procedures are an intrinsic part of America’s medical industrial complex, which some claim make us the “best medical system in the world.”

I don’t necessarily buy into that claim, but I know we’re terribly good at high tech. The quality of the less-profitable high touch component, covering other patients in the population, is open to dispute and resides at the center of health reform debate on universal coverage.

What is your take on hospital marketing? Does it help marketing of your services?

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