Why Does a Hospital Need a Marketing Department?

by Shelli Dankoff
OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

You must be able to present the big picture to the community about who you are at your core.

Why does a hospital need a marketing department? It’s a valid question if you think about “marketing” only on a basic level. But at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, it is about more than just the services we offer or doctors we have. Yes, that is definitely part of it. Central Illinois is blessed with a highly skilled medical community served by a number of hospitals, and we all can’t be everything to everyone, so it is important for the community as a whole to know what we offer.

The changing landscape of healthcare reform will also change our marketing strategy in the coming years. The federal government is changing how it holds medical facilities accountable when it comes to patient care, as well as how it will pay us for that continued care. Patients will play a more active role in their care choices, and we need them to have the best information available to make those choices. How do you know about something if someone doesn’t tell you?

The way we market has also changed over the years. It’s no longer just three local television stations, radio and the newspaper. Social media and the Internet are exploding as places where people get their healthcare information. The MTV generation wants everything in short bursts with moving pictures, but at the same time, our parents and grandparents may still look at things in an “old school” way.

Marketing is also increasingly becoming involved in patient communications and processes to help improve the patient experience and bring a non-clinical perspective to patient care and services. OSF Saint Francis and Children’s Hospital of Illinois were involved in one of the biggest marketing initiatives of the past decade—one that crossed many different boundaries—when we opened our new building in the summer of 2010.

You have to think of the big picture for this marketing game plan. There were a lot of stakeholders in the process, everybody wanted everything, and there were internal and external audiences which required different information. And while the budget from the administration was generous, it wasn’t limitless!

Our directors of marketing and volunteer services spent the entire year leading up to the opening coordinating all aspects of the process. That included rallying hospital and community leaders, physicians, nurses, volunteers and even janitorial staff around a nostalgic song to celebrate the grand opening of the largest private construction project in Peoria’s history.

They had to negotiate a variety of minefields to satisfy stakeholder priorities. They worked with our ad agency to leverage their resources and stretch our marketing dollars, including helping us to objectively narrow down which features of the new facility to promote (the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” perspective!). They even had to fight for a messaging strategy that was rejected by hospital administration twice—but ended up receiving national recognition.

Ten days of grand opening events, 450 volunteers and 13,000 guests later, it was truly our moment to shine before a single patient was even admitted. But it took several years worth of planning and a dedicated staff (who still had to do their daily jobs during the process) to make it work. It didn’t just happen.

That’s why marketing is so important for any business, be it a medical facility or otherwise. You need to be able to present the big picture to your community about who you are at your core.

2012 promises to be no different. OSF HealthCare’s “alltogetherbetter” campaign continues to grow as we move toward a vision of one OSF. There are messages for our external audiences, as well as the ever-growing OSF family. Marketing healthcare is a special privilege, as it reaches those we serve at some of the most vulnerable and frightening times of their lives. Our job is to help them through it—hopefully, to a life of renewed health and happiness. iBi

Subscribe to Peoria Magazines

Add new comment