Just One Powerful Word Helps MU Health Turn Negative Attitudes Toward Academic Medicine to a Positive
// By Peter Hochstein //
Sometimes, showing some “attitude” can sell your expertise better than simply presenting all the things you’re expert at. Here’s a case in point.
What’s with the peculiar convictions some health care consumers have about teaching hospitals?
They’ll seek out a top-tier school for their kids, and a well-reputed attorney to draft their wills — but then shun a hospital that has impressive expertise either because it’s public or because it’s a teaching hospital.
We reported on this phenomenon last year, in an article about the Santa Clara Medical Center in California’s Silicon Valley. There, despite what interviewees insisted were “tons of innovation,” its marketers had to fight the phenomenon that because it was a public hospital, consumers’ first thoughts were words like “loud, dirt, gang members, homeless people.” (The hospital helped solve the problem by positioning itself as a hospital run by medical “nerds” for the nerds of Silicon Valley. That connected with the local ethos, and perceptions improved.)
Now we have a similar-but-different case at University of Missouri Health Care, or MU Health for short. It’s a 525-bed hospital system in Columbia, Missouri. The system serves a 25-county area, and you’d think that one of its great strengths is that it’s the only academic medical center in the area. You’d have to drive east on the interstate for two hours to St. Louis, or west for almost as long to Kansas City, to find another academic medical center.
But when it came to attracting patients, MU Health’s unique position as a teaching hospital turned out to be a weakness in the minds of some consumers, research revealed.