Hospitals Marketing To Boomers

Hospitals in the USA are jockeying to position themselves for growth amid a perfect storm of aging baby boomers and a health-care-reform bill that will result in millions more insured patients down the road.

Nationally known hospital brands such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Massachusetts General Hospital are ramping up spending according to this article in Ad Age.

With a combination of co-branding partnerships, reputation advertising, and an increased presence in social media, hospital and medical centers are trying to establish themselves as the go-to place for particular diseases as more patients comparison shop for treatment.

A lot of these national and world-class medical centers have developed their own specialties, and it’s become part of their brand value. They need to attract talent and get funding. How do they do that? By increasing their patient base. How do they lure patients? Their advertising. Doesn’t seem to matter these days how far away a patient is.

Indeed, 25% of the patients at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., come from 500 miles away or more. To get patients traveling, hospitals are upping the ante. The Cleveland Clinic more than doubled its ad spending from 2008 to 2009, according to Kantar Media, from $3.9 million to $8.5 million. Spending by Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Health Care System is up 10%, and it’s up 15% at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System.

Many of these hospitals and medical centers have taken their awards and rankings — particularly the annual influential U.S. News & World Report rankings — and crafted reputation ads around them to highlight their respective specialties.

Closer to home, Medical Tourism is maturing as a business lead by the powerful institutions like Bumrungrad in Thailand and Parkway in Singapore. Medical institutions in India, Philippines and Korea are close behind in terms of developing world classs facilities, but they appear not to have yet embraced modern branding and marketing principles.

In fact, the whole health care marketing segment is far more developed in western countries. Here’s an article recently posted by Brent Green in the USA about a preventative healthcare campaign targetted at Baby Boomers.

At a BoomerCconference in Singapore last year I heard a marketing executive talk about their activities but it was clear their was no consideration given to the particular needs of an ageing population other than the obvious medical responses. How age-neutral are hospitals anyway?