U.S. Health Department Promotes Hospital Comparison Site

screengrab of healthdept hospital comparison siteFor the past four years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has maintained a Web site designed to help consumers make better decisions when choosing a hospital. The site has included information about mortality rates and procedural specialties, but it wasn't until earlier this year that new measurements of consumer satisfaction were added. Now, the HHS is ready to promote the site, having taken out ads in 58 newspapers across the country to promote Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov).

"There are a lot of things a patient should know when choosing a hospital," HHS representative Don McLeod tells Marketing Daily. "What we want to do is get people aware of this site and the information on it."

The ads, which ran on Wednesday, highlight two benchmarks recently added to the site: the percentage of patients who always received help when they requested it and the percentage of patients who were given antibiotics one hour prior to surgery. Each ad was tailored to its market, including only hospitals in the area. ("It wouldn't do any good to give information from a hospital from somewhere else," McLeod says.) The ads also included state averages for those two categories. The information ran under the headline, "Compare the Quality of Your Local Hospitals" and a call to visit the Hospital Compare Web site.



The Hospital Compare site includes data on 26 "quality-of-care" measures. The two used, however, were intended to highlight the new information on the site, as well as resonate with consumers. McLeod says the department is aware that several factors influence hospital choice--from physician availability to insurance coverage--but the site is intended to demystify things when multiple choices are available to a consumer. "It gives someone an idea," McLeod says. "We wouldn't expect people to choose a hospital based on only two measures."

HHS has no further marketing plans beyond the full- and half-page ads that ran Wednesday, McLeod says. "We'll see how it goes and decide what to do next," he says. "The print gives people something to look at and an idea of the Web site. Radio wouldn't do that; TV might, but it would be too expensive."

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