Medical Tourism Hospitals Often Commit This Marketing “Sin”

It’s a sin to tell a lie, right?

I’ve inspected so many hospitals where the hospital has not yet undergone its accreditation survey, but they believe that the “coming soon” announcement placed next to a JCI accreditation seal image is important to the market in order to give them credibility and prestige. What I’ve learned from the hospitals that have made this mistake is that this suggestion usually comes from their chosen marketing or advertising agency.  What I explain when I talk about marketing medical tourism and accreditation best practices at industry conferences, is that any agency that gives this guidance is incompetent and the agency who suggests this approach is uninformed about important industry nuances and advertising claims. They can do a lot of damage out of ignorance and actually suppress your chances of success and damage your brand.

Hospitals often spend thousands of dollars on creative design, layout, printing, website content and consulting before they publish a claim such as this.  The ad agency or marketing company that suggests this “coming soon” campaign should be terminated immediately for incompetency. And if a damage occurs because you followed their advice, they should be sued to indemnify your organization and make you whole.

So, before you make this egregious and preventable mistake, read the manual of any accreditation survey – not just JCI. If you do this, you risk being in violation of the instructions on the first few pages of the manual. If there’s any doubt in your mind, pull out the manual and read it. Or, call the accrediting body and ask.

This kind of messaging is not permitted for several reasons.

First, you can’t predict if you will pass, so to say coming “soon” is inaccurate.  It is no more appropriate than an IVF clinic handing out T-shirts with their logo on it to new clients that say “Baby Coming Soon”.  

Second it infringes on the accrediting body’s brand. You haven’t earned the right to use that seal yet. Like pregnancy, either you are accredited– or you are not. There is no degree of gray area here.


Any insurance or employer’s contracting representative who knows anything about accreditation knows this rule. So this marketing approach could backfire and you could raise their antennae for what else might be “puffery”.  Puffery in advertising is the reliance on exaggerations, opinions, and superlatives, (“world class“, for example)  with little or no credible evidence to support its vague claims. Puffery may be tolerated to an extent so long as it does not amount to  misrepresentation (false claim of possessing certain positive attributes or of not possessing certain negative attributes).  The penalty at getting caught doing this, at the very least, is that the accrediting body could cancel your accreditation survey and not reschedule. Is this a mere risk or have we seen this actually happen to a hospital that made this “coming soon” claim? Yes! And here’s the kicker: The report to the accrediting body most likely came from a close competitor! All it takes is a measly telephone phone call or an email to “rat you out“.

Unintended consequences

But worst of all– from the insurer’s point of view this does not level you “up”. Instead, this exaggeration and rule infringement tells them that both your accreditation status and organizational integrity are not at the level of all the other participating network providers who are accredited. You don’t earn the tick in that box!

Honesty and accuracy is best

Like many insurers and employers, inspectors for Mercury Healthcare International’s globally integrated health delivery system® are under strict orders to decline your application if they read or hear a “coming soon” claim on any advertising collateral, voice over narration in a promotional audio or video, or hear a hospital representative say it orally at any time in conversation. So, when an insurer, employer or other visitor is doing a site inspection and you are asked,  “Are you currently accredited by any internationally recognized accrediting body?” The answer is a “yes” or “no” response. Anything else earns demerits.  Don’t make this marketing mistake that could otherwise be avoided.  If they want to know more about the yes or no response, they will invite you to elaborate.

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