Are hospitals one scandal away from mass patient revolt?

Kaiser’s late April Health Tracking poll put numbers to American’s anger with prescription drug companies. It showed that Americans are broadly in favor of increased regulation of just about any flavor if it promises lower drug prices. Americans would be happy to introduce price caps, ban advertising, and work out importing deals with Canada.

It’s no surprise this is happening now. Martin Shkreli’s cold cynicism brought the country’s attention to the profit machinery that drives many pharmaceuticals. The EpiPen scandal made it worse and gave people all the proof they needed to conclude that drug companies, though they sell products that save lives, aren’t all that interested in their lives at all.

Here’s a breakdown of America’s opinions on regulatory approaches.


Are hospitals one scandal away from similar outcries?

It seems possible. See two charts (below).

This one, from USAToday, shows cost differences for a standard MRI procedure across 8 different providers within 100 mile radius of San Francisco. A patient could have more than 13 MRI’s at the lowest cost provider before the cost matched 1 MRI at the highest cost provider. This pattern isn’t unique to California; it’s happening in communities across the country.


This one from Oliver Wyman shows consumers biggest healthcare concerns. Note that the rising costs of medical care not paid for by insurance is more concerning than the rising cost of prescription drugs. If that’s true, imagine what the outcry would be like if a major new outlet showed a hospital making outsize profits from standard procedures. Hospitals, already feeling pressure from all sides, would find patients’ trust rapidly eroding in a new and ominous way.


What can a marketer do?

The first thing is to do a cost comparison for you and your competitors. You can get some relative info from It’s likely that your financial office will have some intel, as well.

If your hospital is on the high-to-very-high end, you may consider bringing your concerns up the ladder. Talk to the rest of the C-Suite about your concerns from a brand perspective, and don’t forget to mention how easily public information is shared nowadays. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few talking points in your pocket should you be called to the carpet in public.

If you’re on the low end, you may want to consider ways to get this message across. But do it carefully. The last thing you want to be is ‘the cheap hospital’. We’ve helped a number of clients recover from that position, and it can be a big challenge.