Tag Archives: hospital advertising

Posting ER wait times online: Gimmick or service?

Writing for HealthLeaders Media, Cheryl Clark looked at the growing number of hospitals that are posting their emergency room wait times online.

Clark describes the practice as a “marketing strategy” that may help hospitals snag market share and improve the patient experience, and quotes physicians calling it a “gimmick” that may actually hurt patients by encouraging them to delay ER visits until the line gets shorter. Clark also spotlights a more disturbing version of the system, one which allows patients to pay online to reserve a spot at the head of the ER waiting line.

Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Ore., uses a system of infrared tags to monitor ER wait times and post them online.

(Another system) allows patients to buy, for $24.99, the ability to register online for a place at the head of the emergency room wait line at participating hospitals. The concept, called InQuickER—”Skip the ER Waiting Room”—was developed three years ago as a customer service program.

The patient prints out a confirmation number with instructions for what time to be at the hospital so they don’t have to wait.

So far, three hospitals have signed up: Emory-Adventist Hospital in Smyrna, GA, Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares, FL, and Infirmary West in Mobile, AL.

Hospitals add real patients to ad campaigns

Andrew Adam Newman reports in The New York Times on the state of hospital advertising, citing some specific cases to show that hospitals are moving away from traditional images like “caring” nurses, “skilled” doctors and cutting-edge equipment to real patients in ads.

Newman focused on the Akron Children’s Hospital, which is using actual patients facing raw medical uncertainty in a current campaign, and the unorthodox, catchy advertisements of New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Even hospitals, long considered recession-resistant, are feeling the economic pinch. But they are still placing ads. Total advertising spending by United States hospitals in 2008 was $1.23 billion, a slight increase over the previous year of $1.20 billion and more than twice as much as 2001, when hospitals spent $493 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a research unit of WPP.

The article even features the president of an advertising firm saying that advertising ratings, such as those from U.S. News & World Reports, can backfire:  “unless you’re the Mayo Clinic you have to hedge it – you say you’re the fifth for a certain category, but only in the last three years.”