After receiving a generic, form email suggesting that I could become a “Founding Influencer” for a company called HealthTap, I decided to pop on over to the company’s website to remind myself what it was all about. It’s like an Answers.com for health and medical conditions. Except that doctors are doing the answering (for free!).
And except the answers are, in my opinion, so generic as to be far less helpful than a simple Google search could provide most users. After all, it’s unethical for doctors to provide personalized medical advice to someone they haven’t seen.
What I saw when I got to the HealthTap homepage, however, bowled me over. Smack there front-and-center was the claim, “12,044 lives saved.” As though “lives saved” was just one more accolade to market their services by.
But then I thought about it again and realized that HealthTap has obviously tapped into something that the rest of the healthcare world has ignored — the unlimited and amazing marketing potential of treating people’s lives as just another object or product.
So I began to imagine how such innovative marketing messaging could transform the healthcare world…
For instance, local hospitals could take out billboards on major highways and compete more directly for the most limbs reattached after a car accident:
“South Bum Memorial Hospital Has Successfully Re-attached over 95% of the Limbs Recovered!”
When you enter your local ER, there could be a poster hanging on the wall proclaiming:
“Our ER is So Clean, 93% of People Who Enter Our Facility Don’t Get a Hospital Acquired Infection!”
Or as you’re driving past the local funeral parlor, they could have the obvious:
“Over 7,600 Happy Customers Served! (And Buried)”
(We know that they’re happy because nobody has ever come back to complain.1 )
Surgeons could use this as an advertising catch in their online profiles too.
“Over 12,000 lives saved.*”
Then in small print (to abide by fairness in advertising laws):
“* – Yeah, I’ve lost a few too, but please don’t ask about those, thanks.”
Now, sure, these are tongue-in-cheek examples. But it’s to make a point — people’s lives shouldn’t be a product or marketing fodder for your company or your company’s services. Especially if your trying to help people improve their health, mental health or lives.
Human lives are not objects, and I’m sorry HealthTap, but your service did not “save” them — they saved themselves. They may have done so with your help, but in my opinion it’s crass and in very poor taste to treat a life saved as just another metric on your business dashboard. 2
So congratulations, HealthTap — headed by CEO Ron Gutman — you’ve brilliantly blazed another trail here by treating a person’s life as just another marketing message or product, in my opinion. Like McDonald’s selling hamburgers.
- Sorry, the living dead don’t count, since they can’t vote. And are, uh, undead. [↩]
- Yes, saving lives online is important. Back in 2009 — nearly five years ago now — I wrote about how a single, static web page had already saved 2 million people’s lives. It costs zero dollars to maintain this page — which continues to save people’s lives each and every day. But I wrote about it in context of a professional conference presentation I gave — not as a marketing slide for a company’s homepage. [↩]
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Jan 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2014). HealthTap: Where Saving Lives is Just Another Marketing Message. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/31/healthtap-where-saving-lives-is-just-another-marketing-message/