Good Marketing or Just Plain Nuts

Alliance Community Hospital in Ohio has publicly done what most marketers think about secretly but never do. They have outrightly asked their community members to share information on the prices and charges that they have encountered as patients at their competitors. And they have offered a bribe, I mean payment, of $100 per insurance company information provided up to $1,000.

It wants patients to hand over their bills and corresponding ”explanation of benefits,”statements from insurance companies that detail how much hospitals charge for procedures and treatments, as well as how much insurers and consumers actually end up paying.

The hospital CEO said it is part of the hospital’s attempt to provide consumers with more information about the true cost of medical services and plans to share the information eventually on a new Web site. As on insurer noted “looking through EOBs from unrelated facilities poses issues of data collection, interpretation and validity. Moreover, there may be numerous legal issues inherent in such an effort.”

The hospital is seeking patient insurance statements from 2007 for inpatient stays, emergency room visits, MRI and CT scans and physical therapy.

OK, I give the marketers some credit for having the, well you know what, for just asking. Hey why not. However, the thing about insured consumers is that they are well, insured and as long as they have the card and free entry into the system, they will not comparison shop on price. They will go where their physician tells them and through what they have heard from word of mouth. And even those in high deductible plans may find it very confusing to go through EOB statements and to understand what are charges versus what is the actual price to pay.

To me this is a slick way to gather competitor intelligence that does not have a whole lot of upside. In fact, it just feels unethical. But hey that’s my opinion. Tell me yours.