Hospital justifies its advertising budget

Official: Expenditure offers measurable results

Despite claims that The Memorial Hospital spends too much money advertising, and that county hospitals don't need to market themselves, TMH's community relations director, Pam Thompson maintains that the hospital's publicity efforts provide health education and produce measurable results.

Thompson said the Moffat County Board of Commissioners received a letter questioning TMH's advertising budget and the need for the community relations director.

"You guys advertise way too much," Thompson recalls critics saying.

To counter those attacks, and summarize the hospital's publicity efforts, Thompson presented a "Public Relations and Marketing Annual Report" to the TMH Board of Trustees at its final 2003 meeting Tuesday.

Thompson reported that TMH spends about eight-tenths of one percent of its gross revenue on advertising, compared to an industry standard of two percent of gross revenue.

If TMH followed that guideline, it would spend about $340,000 annually on advertising, Thompson said. As of November, TMH had spent $148,295.

"Based on industry standards, we don't spend near enough," Thompson said.

Thompson doesn't even like to use the word "advertising" to describe the hospital's publicity efforts.

Instead, she calls it "health promotion."

She delivered to the hospital board a month-by-month account of what she meant by the term.

From "breast cancer awareness" and "men's health issues" to blood drives, cancer support groups and "stop smoking" campaigns, TMH reminds people about preventative health by advertising with various media outlets. And the results are tangible, Thompson said.

She reported a 39 percent increase in the number of babies born at TMH from 2002 to 2003.

She attributes the increase to a steady marketing effort focusing on newborns at TMH. It was designed to decrease "outmigration" to other hospitals, such as Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.

Throughout October, TMH spent money publicizing discounted mammograms with complimentary massages.

Thompson estimates 75 percent of TMH's mammograms are booked as a result of advertising. Steamboat Springs residents even made the trip west to receive mammograms at TMH, Thompson said.

TMH also hosted 11 visits from school groups of different levels.

Younger students toured the hospital's facility, including the emergency room, ambulance and patient rooms. The introduction to the hospital may ease fears for children who may have to visit TMH for health reasons.

"It reassures kids that the hospital is not a big scary place," Thompson said.

TMH offers an online service called FastHealth, on which anyone can find a variety of healthcare resources on the Web.

Hits to the Web site increased steadily throughout the year. In November, more than 1,500 visitors viewed the site. New users can find the site by clicking the FastHealth icon at www.thememorial-hospital.com.

Dr. Michael Crane joined TMH this year as a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology.

Crane's practice has "taken off," outperforming the hospital's revenue projections, according to Hospital Administrator Randy Phelps.

Crane's practice has benefited from TMH's marketing, Thompson said.

Eight of the 18 surgeries Crane has performed at TMH resulted from referrals. The remaining 10 of 18 surgeries occurred after patients heard about the new doctor through advertising, according to Thompson.

Of Crane's 50 office visits, Thompson said 31 are attributable to marketing.

Thompson also mentioned "unmeasurable" benefits from advertising, such as residents who are reminded to see their family doctors after seeing or hearing a TMH advertisement.

Also, patients who book appointments with specialists, such as neurologists, may have seen TMH's Alzheimer's awareness ads, for instance.

If TMH did not use its resources to promote health issues, it would be a "disservice to the community," Thompson said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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