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'Hospitals Stage Marketing Blitz'

February 21, 1988

Instead of being coined Ward Wars , the battle among Orange County hospitals should be called Reward Wars , as each is competing for a greater share of the lucrative health care market with an anticipation of increased business and higher profits ("Orange County Hospitals Stage Marketing Blitz," Feb. 7).

It is debatable whether their advertising campaigns are cost effective and attract new business or are just a huge waste of monies. Apparently, the hospitals themselves believe the ads are worthwhile, as they keep pouring more money into them each year. I am not convinced. To date, there is no conclusive data that shows the direct effect of these ads on hospital business.

The quality of the ads vary greatly. Some are innovative, clever and well polished. Others are shallow and not thought out. Some are downright absurd.

For example, one ad, which gave me heartburn, looks as if it was designed by a horror movie special effects department. On one billboard is a humongous, grotesque-looking heart thumping away at a rate of 55 beats per minute. The ad seems more appropriate for a horror flick titled "Attack of the Pulsating Heart."

This ad may grab people's attention and let them know about the hospital's new heart center, but it is demeaning to the medical profession and is a real eyesore.

It is also dangerous. It may distract motorists and cause traffic accidents as well as being a noise irritation to nearby residents. How would you like to hear a thump-thump-thumping all night long?

Whether or not the ads are effective, one thing is clear. If the main thrust of hospitals today is to attract more customers and make greater profits, rather than to treat and care for people, maybe our entire medical system needs to be revamped and converted from a privately owned to a publicly owned system. A human life is too precious to be left in the hands of a profit-and-loss statement.



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