$30B Spent on Healthcare Marketing: What you need to know


That was our reaction to a recent article in Kaiser Health News. Just to be clear, we are big fans of Kaiser Health News and of responsible marketing. Our dismay was driven by the fact that the healthcare industry is spending $30B a year on marketing – nearly double from 1997 – without showing any related improvement in our country’s health or cost situation.

Folks, this is what’s fundamentally wrong with the healthcare system. Groups with deep pockets are doing a great job of reaching and engaging consumers and providers with their messages. The problem is that it’s the wrong message and it’s driving all the wrong behavior: unnecessary spending and avoidable costs.

“Sophisticated campaigns make people worry about diseases they don’t have and ask for drugs or exams they don’t need.”

Wouldn’t it be great to apply that marketing horsepower to the Smart Health movement? Just a fraction of $30B spent promoting community-based organizations and their ability to address social determinants of health, for example, could be a game-changer. Instead of ads telling consumers to “ask your doctor” about the latest drug, they’d be encouraging consumers to “ask your doctor about a prescription for food,” or “visit your local care navigator for help getting safe housing.” Consumers wouldn’t be consumed with fear, they’d by lifted by real help for problems affecting their health status.

The tide is turning toward the Smart Health market, but it’s a slow turn. The importance of SDOH has been acknowledged and many are actively integrating it into their businesses. The federal government continues to lead the charge on value-based models of care. Organizations that have thrived in the unsustainable fee-for-service environment – like pharmaceutical companies and hospitals – are under fire and they know it.

What the industry needs is a fair balance on all aspects of health status. Yes, there are legitimate needs for drugs and hospital services and we don’t question those. We do question $30B spent on marketing practices that rely on scare tactics and don’t address quality, health status, and reduced costs.

You can read the entire Kaiser Health News article here.

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