Friday, January 20, 2006

Hospitals spending millions to raise profiles - instead of on improving patient care

Perhaps the millions spent to "raise profiles" might be better spent in "raising quality" (which might obviate the need to artificially "raise profiles").

One thing is certain: the millions spent will not be offset by millions in executive compensation reductions.

The B-schoolers have truly taken over healthcare. What a way to run ruin medicine.

A previous post on this topic is here.

Hospitals spending millions to raise profiles
John George
Bizjournals Staff Writer

Dr. Steven Merahn recently accepted a new job where his responsibilities, and even his title, include "brand management."

The post wasn't with a soda company, automobile manufacturer or computer firm -- all businesses that rely heavily on product name recognition.

Merahn was hired as vice president of marketing and brand management for the North Philadelphia-based Albert Einstein Healthcare Network. He sees his job as creating and maintaining a brand that defines the value Einstein brings to the communities it serves.

"A brand is not a logo or a color scheme," Merahn said. "While all of that helps with recognition, people don't drink Coke or Pepsi because of what is on the can."

With the trend toward health insurers and employers striving to empower workers to be better consumers of health-care services, hospital and health systems are placing more importance than ever before on their brand recognition.

And they are spending millions of dollars promoting their brands. For example:

Virtua Health will soon be launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, while the University of Pennsylvania Health System has embarked on a study of its branding strategy.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is getting ready to distribute branded CDs that will enable people to keep track of their health records on their home computer.

Temple University Health System has a sports marketing deal with Comcast-Spectacor that includes signage at the Wachovia Center and sponsorship of the scoreboard displayed for home viewers of Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers games.

Cooper Health System in Camden, one the region's most high-profile hospital marketers, has created an online store to sell branded apparel and novelties.

Merahn has only been on the job for a few months at Einstein, so his branding strategy is still evolving. He has spent much of his time interviewing people at Einstein to learn more about that network, and how and what to promote. The pediatrician-turned-administrator believes branding is a key component in any communications strategy -- regardless of whether you're selling cars, cell phones or health-care services.

"You need to have a distinct identity among the audiences you are trying to reach," Merahn said. "We are in one of the most competitive health-care markets in the country, so having a unique identity is something each of us wants. Part of what we are doing here is deciding what promise we want to make to the community and then fulfilling it."

In South Jersey, Virtua Health is spending $3 million to $4 million on a brand awareness campaign set to debut within the next few weeks.

"I don't want to blow the cover off what's going to be coming," said Richard Miller, Virtua's president and CEO, "but we are going to be talking about our programs and services in a much different way."

... Dandorph [Penn's senior vice president for business development] said Penn's approach equates to General Motors, where the parent organization is promoted along with separating branding efforts for its individual components, such as Chevrolet, Pontiac and Cadillac.

... read it all.