Hospital Safety, Quality and Advertising


I was wondering the other day about hospital advertising that you might see in your community (TV ads, billboards, newspaper ads). With the focus on improving quality and patient safety, is there a hospital somewhere that is advertising itself as a “safer” or “better quality” option? I don't mean advertising that their doctors are highly skilled or “the best.” That's different than the quality provided through hospitals processes and systems, the operational aspect as opposed to the clinical/medical aspect.

There are hospitals that advertise their efficiency differences (zero waiting or short waits for emergency room treatment). Product companies, including automakers, are often touting quality (Toyota or new GM ads) or safety (Volvo) in their advertisements.

Has anyone seen a hospital using quality or safety performance as a way of attracting patients? Click comments if you have an example to share. Would hospitals accept this? Is it risky to admit that quality hasn't been perfect all along? Would hospitals find it distasteful to point out that competing hospitals in the community are less safe? I'm curious to see what happens are more quality metrics are made public, through voluntary efforts or government requirements.

I just got a postcard ad in the mail today from a hospital that touted they are:

  • “leading” (based on what??)
  • “board-certified physicians” (that seems like a good starting point)
  • “acclaimed” (by who?) and “recognized” (another fairly empty word)
  • “providing exceptional care”

I realized it is just a postcard, but there wasn't anything really specific there. I suspect, again, that they are referring to the quality of their physicians as opposed to the quality of their processes.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

  1. Andy Wagner says

    Hospitals in my area are touting their member cards that allow you to bypass the paperwork in the emergency room.
    I wonder if EMS drivers check which card you have in your wallet when deciding which hospital to take you to.
    It strikes me as “praising the false god of the almighty algorithm,” as Kevin Meyer might say.

  2. neutron jerk says

    I’m confused by the member card. You have to plan to have emergencies? Not the specific timing, but the fact you will have an emergency?

  3. Mark Graban says

    While this linked article talks mostly about Hospital CEO Paul Levy’s blog , there is an interesting comment about his willingness to publish some of their hospital acquired infection data. The article says:

    “What’s new about Levy’s effort is he’s seeking to gain a competitive market advantage by being open about his hospital’s quality performance,” McDonough said. “It’s OK for [health officials] to come up with this consensus approach. We will have to see at the end of the day whether or not it gives consumers the information they deserve, or whether it provides only watered-down data.”

  4. Anonymous says

    Most medical consumers haven’t a clue what to look for in a hospital. We live in an age of bloated suburban hospitals with no medical school affiliation whatsoever getting away with calling themselves “regional health care center”s merely on the basis of size–their many new, shiny wings.

    Meanwhile, I just spent five hours watching a friend being mistreated in our local ER. In all that time I saw ONE housekeeping staff person–a young man waxing the hallway with a buffing machine outside the ER. The place was filthy. No one bothered to clean up the blood my friend shed on the gurney. I’ll bet it’s still there.

    That’s our “regional health care center”… Good luck, folks.

  5. […] commercial a few times that I managed to record and it hearkened back to when I asked this question in a November, 2007 post: I was wondering the other day about hospital advertising that you might see in your community (TV […]

  6. […] blogged back in 2007, wondering why more hospitals don’t use measurable patient safety measure… (as opposed to vague reputation-based rankings). Do hospitals finally have the data to back such […]

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