Marketing is a major component for most business in the United States but is only just beginning to take hold in the healthcare field. Within the healthcare arena the concepts of marketing has taken a long time to develop. In the late 1970s Evanston Hospital in Illinois was the first hospital to hire a marketing person for healthcare. We are now in the early 21st Century and healthcare marketing is going full steam ahead. The purpose of this essay is to examine some of the healthcare marketing techniques and its possible impact on healthcare workers.
General OpinionI have only been working in the healthcare industry for about seven years. Of the seven years, I worked five of them in one large medical center in a local town. Marketing was never a part of my vocabulary until recently. I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to advertising campaigns until I started working for Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Mass communication was and still is a major marketing technique that Saint Francis uses. A day doesn’t goes by that you will not see the “Medical Minute” spot on the local television stations.
Shortly after Saint Francis started using this technique, three other local hospitals developed their own television campaigns. Even though some people may get tired of the constant bombardment of these TV commercials, I believe that they may save lives as well as promote more business for the hospitals. As quoted by Wagner, Fleming, Mangold, and Laforge (1994), a 46-year old male wrote to a local hospital thanking them for saving his life through their TV campaign on the signs of heart attacks. From this campaign, this individual was able to identify that he was having a heart attack at which time he went straight to the emergency room.
Another technique that Saint Francis used was the “We Care” campaigns. According to Beckham (2001) the “We Care” campaign was listed under the section “What Hasn’t Worked” of his article. Beckham claimed that consumers are more concerned with competence and results than whether the hospital cares or not. In my opinion, I would have to agree with this concept. Yes, Saint Francis did care, but is the service good? I believe that the TV campaigns are more successful as a marketing tool than wearing buttons reading “We Care.”Are Current Marketing Techniques Affecting Consumer Trends?The answer to this question is hard to pin down at this point in my current opinion.
According to Beckham (2001), some marketing strategies worked better than others. Positioning is one technique where an organization/hospital creates an image of clinical competence. Becham claimed that “positioning required more than advertising and facilities: there had to be underlying capabilities, and evidence, to back up the claims.” Another technique that Becham outlined in his article was “Missionary Work,” which is used when a physician cannot compete with his local hospital physicians and goes out into the countryside and builds relationships with the primary care physicians for referrals. This proved to be a successful technique being used.
I do believe that the new techniques such as the ones mentioned above have or will affect consumer trends. The technique that I believe affects the most is the missionary work technique. There was a time when consumers believed that the only healthcare available to them was the primary care physician within their small countryside communities. Now with the relationships that are being built between the local physicians and the small countryside physicians, more specialized healthcare can be offered/provided to the citizens of these small communities. Thus, the trend of only using the local hometown physician has changed.
Negative Impact on Healthcare WorkersI am sure some healthcares workers can be found that do not believe there is a negative impact from the techniques being used within healthcare. However, I believe there are some. Take for instance the technique outlined by (Wagner, Fleming, Mangold, & Laforge, 1994) of the marketing technique of building image and not on increasing demand for services. The negative impact that could be realized here is losing consumer business because consumers want to know more about the services provided to meet their needs than the hospital image. One hospital was quoted as having to shut its doors because of this type of marketing technique. The impact here is loss of jobs for the staff members of the hospital.
A positive impact would be due to the technique that was listed as under the sub-title “What Worked” in the article written by Beckham (2001). When the techniques work, everyone benefits because the consumer is satisfied and will continue to use the services, as well as, refer their friends to the hospital/clinic.
ConclusionUnlike prior to the late 1970s marketing is now considered one the most important aspects of healthcare. There are many marketing techniques used today in which some have proven to work and others not so well. The main point to remember is there has to be a complete understanding of the background and foundation that identifies the importance of marketing. The right people need to be hired as marketing staff. If the wrong person is selected, not only will business fail, but healthcare workers would be affected as well. Marketing is good, it just has be worked properly for all to benefit from it.
Beckham, C. (2001, Jul/Aug). 20 years of healthcare marketing. Health Forum Journal, 44(4), 37-40. Retrieved June 29, 2008, from ProQuest database.
Wagner, H. C., Fleming, D., Mangold, W. G., & Laforge, R. W. (1994). Relationship marketing in healthcare. Journal of Healthcare Marketing, 14(4), 42-47. Retrieved , from EBSCOhost database.