MML Rants And Raves No. 004: Are TV Ads For Hospitals Appropriate?

Only a few years ago, many physicians condemned lawyers who were advertising on television. Many would snicker to their colleagues at cocktail parties, “Why would anyone go to a lawyer who advertises on TV?” as if lawyers who advertised on TV were on par with murders and horse thieves. To them, TV lawyers were scum and were the bottom of the barrel in a profession that they seethingly despised. And where did these physicians professionally hang out? In hospitals, of course, where they had received their training.

My, have times changed! You cannot help but notice that hospitals are now competing on the airwaves to sell themselves to anyone who has a TV set.

Most times, the TV ads for hospitals do not provide useful information about the medical care and services they provide to the populations they serve, such as comparing the quality of their services to the qualify of other hospitals in their area (isn’t that the information that matters most to you?) or the qualifications of the attending physicians who practice at their facilities (wouldn’t you want the best doctors available, especially if you needed major surgery or advanced medical treatment for your condition?) or how the outcomes for services they provide compare with their competitors. Most patients would also find it useful if they were provided information regarding the ratio of nursing and other patient care staff to the number of patients being treated. Instead, these hospital TV ads proudly announce their newest hospital wing named after a wealthy benefactor that offers views of the skyline and luxurious granite in the bathrooms. Or that they now offer valet parking for their visitors and full cable-on-demand channels in spacious rooms for their patients. Or perhaps they recently renovated their food services facilities (memo to self: don’t order the liver). These amenities may be nice, but the number one goal of most hospital patients is to leave the hospital and go home as soon as possible, in better condition than when they arrived.

It appears as a fact of modern day life that hospitals need to find ways to compete with other hospitals so that they have a constant flow of new patients to bill for their services. An empty hospital bed does not generate any revenue for the hospital. Therefore, TV ads serve an increasingly important  role in the increasing promotional (advertising) budgets of hospitals. Never mind that anxious patients are bitter about the ever-growing waiting times in hospital emergency departments or about being discharged from the hospital with insufficient warning and without proper arrangements for home-care after discharge. And hospital patients routinely receive confusing and lengthy medical bills supposedly related to their hospital stay that describe in unfamiliar terms medical testing or treatment that they do not recall (or know) if they received while in the hospital. Hospital patients are rightfully agitated when the nursing staff fails to timely respond to their needs and they are embarrassed and humiliated when they are forced to urinate or deficate in their hospital gowns and in their hospital beds because the hospital staff is either too busy or otherwise unresponsive to their needs.

What would make a good hospital TV ad? Our suggestion, to be spoken on camera by the president of the hospital: “When you are treated in my hospital, upon your admission, you are provided the name and personal cell phone number of the personal health care advocate specially assigned to you who will promptly investigate and respond to any issue or problem you experience while you stay with us. We’ll treat you with compassion and the way we would treat our family members if they were patients in our hospital. We’ll provide you with the best possible care and if you ever feel that we are not, we’ll make it right or you won’t pay for those services.” Hey, wouldn’t you choose this hospital above all others if you had a choice? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable and confident about receiving proper medical care and treatment in this hospital? Wouldn’t you recommend your family and your friends to this hospital  if they had the need for hospital treatment? Ultimately, wouldn’t this hospital have more opportunities to treat more satisfied patients (and therefore receive more revenue for the services they provide)?

Our recommendation to hospitals (if any of them are reading this):  Instead of a city view from a newly renovated patient room with granite in the bathroom, provide us with the best care by the best people and treat us like you would want to be treated if you were in our hospital gowns! No one wants to be in your hospital, but if we’re unfortunate to need such advanced care, treat us right!

If a hospital stay caused injury to you or a loved one, visit our website to find a medical malpractice lawyer in your local area to assist you. You may also call us toll free 800-295-3959.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 22nd, 2011 at 12:15 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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