A few weeks ago we came across an article about some newly proposed legislation that would prohibit hospital advertising in the state of Vermont. Apparently, the State Health Care Committee Chair in Vermont believes that hospitals should be spending their money on actually providing care, not advertising it.
With fewer and fewer dollars available for hospitals to operate and mandates requiring them to deliver more and more care to the growing uninsured population, many hospital advertising budgets have been slashed on their own accord. We know many hospital marketers who have been left practically rubbing two sticks together in hopes of sending up some smoke signals about their facilities and their services. In response to advertising budget cuts, many hospitals do a fantastic job using public relations, grassroots and their websites to build their brands and set themselves apart from their competition.
The Future of Online Hospital Communications
WHAT IF all this was considered advertising in the state of Vermont? Could web based communications, which are often an informative and educational tool, be against the law one day? Would tweets become banned? Would hospital Facebook pages have to go underground, with fans being shamed into association with the illegal activities of the local hospital posting photos of the latest health screening event? Would hospital websites be blocked because of their flagrant disregard for the law because physician bios, wellness quizzes and patient success stories (TRULY?!) threaten the level of patient care being given at that hospital?
We, obviously, find this type of legislation ridiculous, and would hate for it to set a precedent in other states. The line between marketing, advertising, education and public relations is far to blurred. We hope the Vermont Legislature will avoid this altogether in the spirit of the freedom of speech and some really great hospital websites.