Breaking News
February 18, 2019 - How Inactivity and Junk Food Can Harm Your Brain
February 18, 2019 - Diabetes tops common conditions for frequent geriatric emergency patients
February 18, 2019 - Longer-lived sperm produces offspring with healthier lifespans
February 18, 2019 - New dental adhesive prevents tooth decay around orthodontic brackets
February 18, 2019 - New eHealth tool shows potential to improve quality of asthma care
February 18, 2019 - New Australian initiative helps emergency clinicians to improve patient care
February 17, 2019 - Apellis Pharmaceuticals’ APL-2 Receives Fast Track Designation from the FDA for the Treatment of Patients with Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria
February 17, 2019 - Researchers identify faulty ‘brake’ that interferes with heart muscle’s ability to contract and relax
February 17, 2019 - Support from trusted adults can reduce risk of dying in suicidal teens, finds study
February 17, 2019 - Heart attack awareness improved since 2008
February 17, 2019 - Exercise gives a better brain boost to older men than women
February 17, 2019 - New research disproves previous assumptions of how looks influence personality
February 17, 2019 - Cannabis use as a teenager linked to depression later in life
February 17, 2019 - Sinks by Toilets in ICU Patient Rooms Harbor Harmful Bacteria
February 17, 2019 - Cancer cells’ plasticity makes them harder to stop
February 17, 2019 - Young cannabis users have increased risk of depression and suicidal behavior
February 17, 2019 - Tasmanian Devils Likely to Survive Cancer Scourge
February 17, 2019 - Neoadjuvant PD-1 blockade seems effective in glioblastoma
February 17, 2019 - Personal, social factors play role in enabling sustainable return to work after ill health
February 17, 2019 - Mouse studies show ‘inhibition’ theory of autism wrong
February 17, 2019 - Study shows how neuroactive steroids inhibit activity of pro-inflammatory proteins
February 17, 2019 - Use of liver grafts from older donors decreased despite better outcomes in recipients
February 17, 2019 - MUSC researchers discover new mechanism for a class of anti-cancer drugs
February 17, 2019 - HPV misconceptions are causing women to miss smear tests
February 17, 2019 - Sanofi and Regeneron Offer Praluent (alirocumab) at a New Reduced U.S. List Price
February 17, 2019 - Researchers say auditory testing can identify children for autism screening
February 17, 2019 - New method analyzes how single biological cells react to stressful situations
February 17, 2019 - WVU gynecologic oncologist investigates novel treatment for cervical and vaginal cancers
February 17, 2019 - ADHD diagnoses poorly documented
February 17, 2019 - Majority of gender minority youth do not identify with traditional sexual identity labels
February 17, 2019 - AbbVie, Teneobio enter into strategic transaction to develop potential treatment for multiple myeloma
February 17, 2019 - Lower Birth Weight May Up Risk for Psychiatric Disorders
February 17, 2019 - Scientists identify reversible molecular defect underlying rheumatoid arthritis
February 17, 2019 - Moffitt researchers shed light on how CAR T cells function mechanistically
February 16, 2019 - Female Anatomy May Play Big Role in Sperm’s Success
February 16, 2019 - BMI may mediate inverse link between fiber intake, knee OA
February 16, 2019 - Movement impairments in autism can be reversed through behavioral training
February 16, 2019 - Studies address racial disparities in postpartum period and cardiovascular health
February 16, 2019 - Scientists implicate hidden genes in the severity of autism symptoms
February 16, 2019 - Decreased deep sleep linked to early signs of Alzheimer’s disease
February 16, 2019 - Neuroscientists show how the brain responds to texture
February 16, 2019 - Gilead Announces Topline Data From Phase 3 STELLAR-4 Study of Selonsertib in Compensated Cirrhosis (F4) Due to Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
February 16, 2019 - What Can I Do About Sweating? (for Teens)
February 16, 2019 - Companies navigate dementia conversations with older workers
February 16, 2019 - Newly developed stem cell technologies show promise for treating PD patients
February 16, 2019 - Collaborative material research could advance self-assembling nanomaterials
February 16, 2019 - Researchers take major step in creating technology that mimics the human brain
February 16, 2019 - Erasing memories associated with cocaine use reduces drug seeking behavior
February 16, 2019 - Artificial intelligence can accurately predict prognosis of ovarian cancer patients
February 16, 2019 - Racial disparities in cancer deaths on the decline for America
February 16, 2019 - FDA authorizes new interoperable insulin pump for children, adults with diabetes
February 16, 2019 - Coexisting Medical Conditions, Smoking Explain PTSD-CVD Link
February 16, 2019 - Skin Cancer Screening: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
February 16, 2019 - ‘Happiness’ exercises can boost mood in those recovering from substance use disorder
February 16, 2019 - Cell manipulation could soon halt or reverse aging
February 16, 2019 - Pumped Breast Milk Falls Short of Breastfed Version
February 16, 2019 - Men’s porn habits could fuel partners’ eating disorders, study suggests
February 16, 2019 - Rapid progression of age-related diseases may result from formation of vicious cycles
February 16, 2019 - Immune checkpoint molecule protects against future development of cancer
February 16, 2019 - New method produces hydrogels that have properties similar to cells’ environment
February 16, 2019 - $4.1 million funding for heart research on Valentine’s Day
February 16, 2019 - General anesthesia in early infancy unlikely to have lasting effects on developing brains
February 16, 2019 - New breakthroughs for muscular dystrophy research
February 16, 2019 - First Opinion: Embryo editing for higher IQ is a fantasy. Embryo profiling for it is almost here
February 16, 2019 - Vapers develop cancer-related gene deregulation as cigarette smokers
February 16, 2019 - Bringing Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (AST) to the Community
February 16, 2019 - Decolonization protocol after hospital discharge can prevent dangerous infections
February 16, 2019 - Children with ASD more likely to face maltreatment, study finds
February 16, 2019 - Study finds genetic vulnerability to use of menthol cigarettes
February 16, 2019 - Promising drug developed to rejuvenate muscle cells
February 16, 2019 - H-RT should be the standard of care for men with low risk prostate cancer, study shows
February 16, 2019 - New technique using patients’ own modified cells could help treat Crohn’s disease
February 16, 2019 - Therapeutic endoscopy has an expanding role in the treatment of IBD
February 16, 2019 - Blood clot discovery could lead to development of better treatments for blood diseases
February 16, 2019 - Intervention can increase exclusive breastfeeding rates
February 16, 2019 - New project explores how gaming technologies can help cancer patients communicate better
February 16, 2019 - Catalyst Biosciences Presents Updated Data from Its Phase 2/3 Trial of Subcutaneous Marzeptacog Alfa (Activated) in Individuals with Hemophilia A or B with Inhibitors at the 12th Annual EAHAD Congress
February 16, 2019 - Rerouting nerves during amputation reduces phantom limb pain before it starts
February 16, 2019 - A Hormone Produced When We Exercise Might Help Fight Alzheimer’s
February 16, 2019 - Millions of British people breathe toxic air travelling to GPs
Playing on fear and fun, hospitals follow pharma in direct-to-consumer advertising

Playing on fear and fun, hospitals follow pharma in direct-to-consumer advertising

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The scene is shadowy, and the background music foreboding. On the TV screen, a stream of beleaguered humans stand in an unending line.

“If you’re waiting patiently for a liver transplant, it could cost you your life,” warns the narrator.

One man pulls another out of the queue, signaling an escape. Both smile.

Is this a dystopian video game? Gritty drama? Neither. It is a commercial for the living-donor liver transplant center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, an academic hospital embroiled in a high-profile battle with the region’s dominant health plan and now making a play to a national audience.

Hospitals are using TV spots like this one to attract lucrative patients into their hospitals as health care costs and industry competition escalate. Some institutions use them to build national and international brands on niche but high-priced health services. They’re often procedures involving expensive technology that benefit only a sliver of the population. But they could lure wealthy patients seeking high-end care and can also give hospitals some leverage with insurers.

“Hospitals are competing, just like any other business,” said Mark Fratrik, an economist at BIA Advisory Services, a media consulting firm.

UPMC’s ad has been airing nationally this year during cable news shows. Advertising research company iSpot.tv estimates the campaign’s cost at more than $3 million since it first aired in early September. The commercial is aimed at the estimated 14,000 people on the United States liver transplant list, hospital officials said.

But some analysts worry that these hospital advertisements are incomplete or misleading.

“We have choices about where we seek medical care,” said Yael Schenker, a palliative care doctor at UPMC, who has researched hospital advertising but was not involved with the liver transplant ad. “We want to spend our money wisely, and need information about the quality and cost of health care services. Health care advertising — which purports to offer that information and fill that need for consumers — really doesn’t.”

Last year, hospitals nationwide spent more than $450 million on advertising overall, according to figures from Kantar Media, a firm that monitors ad spending. That comes on the heels of a surge between 2011 and 2015, during which time hospitals and health systems upped their ad spending by 41 percent, according to figures published by Advertising Age, which tracks marketing trends. By 2015, hospital ad spending accounted for close to a quarter of all health care-related advertising, according to the Advertising Age report.

The UPMC ad is just one flavor. New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, an orthopedic hospital, launched its own national campaign this year — a minute-long spot featuring jaunty electronic music and people of all ages dancing, jogging and doing yoga and gymnastics. “How you move,” the text asserts, “is why we’re here.”

John Englehart, the hospital’s chief marketing officer, said the campaign is meant to introduce potential patients to HSS from around the country, but he said it should be viewed with other informational materials, such as independent rankings. He wouldn’t comment on how much the hospital has spent on its ad, though iSpot places its value at about $325,000.

A nationally broadcast ad for Yale New Haven Hospital, in Connecticut, shows a cancer survivor at a bicycle race telling viewers the hospital “did give me my life back.” That spot had a far shorter campaign life, and iSpot estimates its value around $11,000. The hospital did not provide comment, despite multiple requests.

Until now, hospital-to-patient marketing has stayed out of the spotlight, as politicians are focused on high drug costs and warn they will crack down on advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. (Pharma ads make up the bulk of paid health care marketing, though hospitals constitute the majority of health care spending.)

Unlike prescription drugs, whose commercials require special approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration, ads for hospitals and health systems are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the marketing of consumer goods.

Or as Schenker put it, “We’re treating them the same way we treat ads for cars and cereal.” But when it comes to health care versus other commodities, “it’s not as easy to figure out if we’ve made a good choice,” she said.

Direct marketing from hospitals and health care centers is by no means a new phenomenon. Billboards and TV ads for spinal surgery and cancer treatments date back years.

But “there’s more money in hospitals’ coffers these days to [market services] more. And why not?” said Robert Berenson, a health care expert at the Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

An ad like UPMC’s highlighting its live-donor liver transplant program signals prestige.

It caters to patients from around the country and even abroad who are often wealthier, or out-of-network, or covered by higher-paying private insurance, noted Paul Ginsburg, a health economist at the University of Southern California. All are more profitable audiences. (UPMC said it has provided live transplants to patients of all stripes, including those covered by Medicaid, which insures low-income people and pays hospitals less.)

Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor and expert on health care pricing, said the ad also can communicate to local consumers that, if they sign up with UPMC — as opposed to a competing hospital — they’re more likely to get better care.

“You’re differentiating yourself from everyone else by saying, ‘I can do this very sophisticated thing that no one else can do. Therefore, sign up with me,'” Anderson said.

Or as Berenson put it: “There are not that many people with liver transplants. There’s some halo effect. They’re trying to get people to recognize the name and go for other services.”

But there is no evidence to suggest that excelling in one particular, complex procedure tracks with providing good care overall.

UPMC casts its campaign as an outreach effort meant to inform people who need liver transplants of a potentially lifesaving option. It is not meant to imply anything further, hospital representatives said. “This is truly an awareness educational campaign,” said Dean Walters, UPMC’s chief marketing officer. He said 14,000 people in the United States need a liver transplant, and that number grows every year. “This is about making sure consumers are aware of this option.”

Walters would not disclose how much UPMC has spent on this particular campaign, though he acknowledged the hospital has made a “financial commitment” to promoting this service. According to Kantar, the marketing firm, UPMC spent more than $4 million on advertising in the first six months of 2018.

Englehart said HSS’ ad is meant to dispel any illusion that the hospital is catering to wealthy patients only — though he also said their campaign is meant to enhance HSS’ reputation both nationally and internationally.

Many health economists suggested the payoff can extend well beyond tapping into the market of potential American or foreign patients. A campaign like this one helps hospitals gain negotiating power in their ongoing struggle with insurers over reimbursement rates.

A hospital that successfully brands itself as excellent or prestigious — even in one procedure or specialty — can leverage that identity when bargaining with insurers.

“They want Hospital A in their network even more, which means Hospital A can extract more from insurers — mainly in the form of higher prices,” said Martin Gaynor, a health care economist at Carnegie Mellon University and former head of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics.

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles