Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hospital Marketing of Specialists

September 21, 2011- Eleven days ago, on September 10, Castle Connolly Ltd, ran a full two page ad in the New York Times, on 32 top prostate cancer specialists across the country with this headline:

“These physicians are among the Top Cancer Specialists as selected by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd, publisher America’s Top Doctors®…Physicians included in Castle Connolly’s Guides and on its website ( have been selected based on extensive surveys of physicians and health leaders nationwide. All physicians who are included undergo an extensive review of their credentials by Castle Connolly’s physician-lead research team. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected as a CCML Top Doctor.”

The ad carefully lists the physicians' credentials and the hospital affiliation of each of the urologists and radiation oncologists. The ad goes on say that September is national prostate cancer awareness month, that prostate cancer is the most common cancer, that it is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths, that each American man over 40 should get a baseline PSA and a digital rectal exam, and they could get free or low-cost PSAs and rectal exams at 200 different sites across the country.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the medical advisory board of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd.

To me, this ad illustrates several truths about America’s costly health system.

• America’s hospitals can market specialists in the name of cancer awareness and identifying top doctors, but specialists feel they cannot market themselves because of professional constraints that discourage self-promotion.

• Americans want to find some reliable means of finding the best hospitals and specialists who can best diagnose and treat such dire conditions as cancer.

There is another truth as well, which has nothing to do with this ad, America’s hospitals are struggling to make ends meet because of the growing numbers of uninsured, which by law they are obligated to treat, and because of the impending Medicare and Medicaid cuts imposed by growing national and state debts and by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka, Obamacare.

Hospital administrators, and everybody else for that matter, knows that the most profitable “lines of service” reside in high tech care, such as cancer, heart, orthopedic, and other specialty services, not in treating Medicare and Medicaid patients, which are treated at a loss for each government-subsidized patient.

In the future, I expect hospitals to focus more on specialized services for full-pay patients and on the specialists who provide them rather than on radio, television, and billboards featuring generic best care provided by its entire medical and nursing staffs.

Instead hospital marketing will concentrate on the specialty services offering the “latest and greatest technologies” such as robotic surgeries, gamma knife procedures, or personalized genomic-based treatment regimens.

Tweet: Hospitals are increasingly focused on marketing specialists for diagnosing and treating cancer and other chronic and rare conditions.

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