Viewpoint: Hospitals should spend money on staffing, not Super Bowl ads

Hospitals and health systems shouldn't be buying Super Bowl ads when they are dealing with staffing shortages and overcrowding, an emergency medicine physician wrote Feb. 8 in The Washington Post.

Farzon Nahvi, MD, an ER physician at Concord (N.H.) Hospital, said he doesn't buy the argument that marketing is an investment hospitals must make to succeed.

"When hospital wings are closing because of staffing shortages, nurses are being asked to attend to more than four to five times the patients they can safely care for, and firefighters and the National Guard are stepping in to provide what hospitals themselves are failing to, can it really be argued that spending on television commercials remains a necessity?" he wrote.

Dr. Nahvi said hospital marketing budgets have "skyrocketed," citing a Journal of the American Medical Association report that found direct-to-consumer advertising by hospitals and health systems had jumped 74 percent from 2014 to 2016. He called for a ban on that type of advertising from hospitals.

"When people see any TV commercial or billboard highlighting a hospital system's quality of care, then walk into that same hospital system's emergency room only to find it dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, it is worth connecting the dots," he wrote. "Imagine how many lives would be saved if only we were to take the bold step of demanding that our healthcare dollars be spent on actual healthcare."

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