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“A reality check on the banal puffery” of hospital website marketing

On the HealthLeaders Media website, Cheryl Clark writes, “It’s Judgment Day for Hospital Websites.”  She calls it “a reality check on all of this banal puffery.”  Excerpts:

“This week, the employer-based Leapfrog Group, which last year started doling out hospital safety scores from A-F, and the accreditation program URAC announced their joint 2013 Hospital Website Transparency Awards. The idea is to applaud those hospitals that have begun to use their sites for real information and education rather than disingenuous hype. And by omission, Leapfrog and URAC hope to shine a light on those who don’t.

“We recognized that the vast majority of hospitals weren’t really doing anything on their websites to promote transparency, but some hospitals were doing an outstanding job,” says Erica Mobley, Leapfrog Group’s senior manager of communications. …

Many within the healthcare industry are increasingly fed up with how meaningless marketing strategies seem to have taken over hospital websites, often in bad taste. In her column for The Health Care Blog last April, Joanne Conroy, MD, Chief Health Care Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, asked “Can We Put the Hospital Marketing Genie Back in the Bottle?”

Advertising techniques, she wrote, “usually include a da Vinci Robot and orthopedic surgery that will ‘get you back in the game.’ They claim to be ‘state-of-the-art,’ ‘leading edge,’ or ‘cutting edge,’ with actors playing doctors and nurses in masks.”

“There is minimal oversight of hospital marketing compared with the active role the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plays guiding the direction of advertising for food and drugs,” she wrote. “I wonder what the FDA would say about some of our hospital marketing: Does it educate the consumer?”

With the attention they hope their award will draw, that’s what URAC and Leapfrog are asking as well.”

(ADDENDUM: I am not impressed that one of the 2012 award winners’ websites promotes its robotic surgery system in ways that would be criticized by many evidence-based medicine proponents.)

Transparency in hospital websites has been a frequent topic on this blog.  Some past examples:

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