What’s the deal with health care advertising?


Image via wikimedia.org

I have some questions about the need for some health care advertising. 

Advertising in health care indicates current concerns. Consider the messages you often see.

  • Dr. ABC will present the latest information about a disease on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.
  • We’re rated No. 1
  • We’re proud to announce that Dr. ABC has joined our team
  • Award-winning care
  • We care about you
  • Ask for us
  • Hospital XYZ is proud to sponsor the evening news on this TV or radio station

Consider what is behind the ads and what is really being said.

The rationale

For a nonprofit health care organization to use its patient’s money to advertise, hopefully there is a valid need.

Some ads are perfectly fine, but others waste the money that comes out of patients' pocketbooks.

Name recognition

Those who provide the majority of a given service don’t really need to advertise to gain business — they’ve already got it! 

Ads to promote a name or brand when there’s not a lot of competition aren’t really needed. Those who are just starting out do need to let people know they are available.

Ads to let people know that something new is available can help people get needed information to access services or providers. Some examples include new doctors setting up practice, new services available to the public and informational programs.


Ads to puff up self-image really don’t do much for me, since we know that just about anyone can be rated No. 1 by different rating services with different standards.

In fact, my Lody’s Ratings Service will make anyone paying me at least $20,000 No. 1 in any category they choose.

Although there are some legitimate rating services, most people are unaware of them, and there is confusion. A lot of these ads seem to be aimed at making a providers’ own employees feel good, not the general public.


Ads to say "ask for us" seem to imply that it’s difficult to choose your provider and that you need to assert yourself to get the care you want to pay for.

Every patient has the right to select his or her own provider, and choices should be made available to patients.

But there can be obstacles in the way of patients, and ads asking patients to ask for a provider are intended to fortify patients to ask for someone else.

This should be unnecessary, if all providers allow patients to make their own choices.


Sponsoring the news or weather on radio or TV gets a little farther afield from the providers’ health care mission.

Is this intended to send messages or to ”buy” the loyalty of a news outlet?

The same goes for general print ads that don’t convey much for the public.

Is the media intimidated when health providers become major advertisers?

While it’s nice for a community to have sports teams ranging from little league to professional levels, how do shoulder patches or retirement community names on uniforms or various signs around  hockey arenas benefit sick patients? 

Does a billboard cause a person to need to have his or her tonsils removed?

Lean operations

If providers pay attention to successful lean-process methods, they will remove from their expense base those things reasonable patients won’t want to pay for. Does this extend to advertising?

Think about it.

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