Medical Advertising

I often recall PT Barnum’s famous saying about a sucker being born every minute or about the refrigerator salesman who could sell ice to Eskimos. The really is that a lot of people are quite gullible when it comes to advertising. If they weren’t thin advertising wouldn’t exist. I bring this up because of a lot of my patients inquire about services or products that they see online or on television. In marketing, there are usually two types of advertising, one is name recognition and the other is generic marketing of wares. In name recognition, this usually involves a well known entity that wants to remain a well known entity such as Coke or Pepsi. The other type of advertising is people who are looking for business. this is where you can’t believe everything you see or read. I often ask patients why people advertise and amazingly I often get a blank stare. I explain to the, that people advertise to get business. This is especially true in healthcare. Recently, I looked at the local newspaper and literally half of the advertisements were for health related services. Obviously the main reason these people are advertising is that they are looking for work. There is nothing wrong with it, I did it when I first started my practice and was slow. But there lies the reality, these people who are advertising are either not busy enough or looking to expand. I often tell people that the best doctors in the country are usually people they never heard of. Why, they don’t advertise. I had a relative who injured his hand and a local surgeon did a horrible job. I asked some of my friends who the best hand surgeon in the country was and each of them said the same guy. I never heard of him and from what I understand besides his website, he doesn’t advertise (he is also afflicted with a university and has a dozen students training under him). But that was the reality, he didn’t need to advertise. People were referred to him from around the world because he was known by others in the field. That gets us back to advertising. I asked a patient about this cancer place (we won’t say which one) but we see it advertised on TV all the time. I asked the patient if they truly had better outcomes, wouldn’t they have a line a mile long trying to get in? That is where people are gullible. Same goes with some vitamin or spray to cure the common cold. They offer a money back guarantee, why? They know that almost no one will ask for the money back guarantee and a third will think they got better with the placebo effect. Yes, the placebo effect is real. I had a patient just last week tell me that would put his nasal cannula on and he felt so much better but a week later he realized it wasn’t even connected to the oxygen. Placebo effect. Listen, we all like believe in things that might cure our ailments. Remember though that advertisements need to be viewed with skepticism.

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