There was a series of ads on the radio awhile back that went something like this:
When Mrs. Willis had a stroke, her husband never slept alone. Her daughter never had to go dress shopping for the prom by herself. And her son didn’t have to sit out the Mother-Son dance at his wedding. Why? Because she came to Hospital A…and she didn’t die!
There’s another ad for one of the big downtown hospital’s cancer center (sorry, “advanced cancer center”):
Every cancer, every stage. Your life depends on it!
Let’s see: No one ever dies at Hospital A. And the big downtown cancer center can cure any cancer. That’s certainly what those ads would have you believe. Even the little local suburban hospitals have taken to advertising: Billboards around the neighborhoods, kiosks at the outlet malls, mainly pushing the lucrative stuff like cardiac care and bariatric surgery.
Every time I see this stuff, I can’t help but wonder how much it all must cost. And how much medical care could have been provided to the uninsured instead of enriching the ad execs and billboard owners who are already rolling in dough. Clearly there is still plenty of money to be made in the hospital business, because these people aren’t stupid. They wouldn’t spend this kind of money on marketing unless there was plenty more to be made from it. I believe it’s a little business concept known as “return on investment.”
Silly me. I still think of myself as being in the business of providing medical care rather than just raking in the maximum number of dollars from each patient who darkens my doorway. When did hospitals lose all that?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was some way to redirect even a fraction of the funds spent on medical marketing, diverting it to actual medical care instead? How many free clinics could be funded for the cost of a radio ad campaign? How many years of generic meds could be paid for with the cost of one billboard? How much suffering could be alleviated for the price of a kiosk at an upscale outlet mall?
I say let’s find out. Ban direct-to-consumer advertising by hospitals and doctors, and try instituting better tax incentives for providing charity care.
Then again, now that the baby boomers are aging, maybe the health systems will start advertising their superior end-of-life and palliative care programs. At least Hospital A may admit that people actually die.
*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*