Plane crashes offer hospitals marketing opportunities, pitfalls

Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:05am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - For Bay Area hospitals, responding to the crash landing of Asiana Flight 214 could have a legacy that lasts well beyond the days they treated victims: raising their profile in the community, perhaps leading to more people thinking of their hospital when they need care.

Bay Area hospitals took in more than 180 injured passengers after the plane came in too low to the airport on July 6, hitting a sea wall and losing its tail and landing gear as it skidded down the runway. The bulk of patients went to San Francisco General Hospital and Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

Hospitals say, however, they will stop short of using the flight as a fundraising opportunity, as cash-grabbing pitches tied directly to the crash might offend potential donors.

"We do not, would not, haven't changed our fundraising approach or strategy as a result of the plane crash or any other event like that," says Kevin Causey, president of the foundation tied to St. Francis Hospital, which treated seven crash victims. "I'm reminded of how in poor taste that would be."

Still, he says, the hospital might benefit anyway. "If somebody's watching the news and sees a steady stream of ambulances going to their neighborhood hospital, they might be inspired to donate," he says.

Hospitals often gain from high-visibility disaster, says Gerard Anderson, director at the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It demonstrates that they have capacity to handle disasters," he says. That capacity is highly valued by the community but is costly to maintain.

However, little data exists that ties donations directly to disaster response. "It's not the right judgment to say, 'This happened, and there was an increase in donations,'" says Kathy Zichy, a vice president of public health at New York University's development office.

During the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, she worked in corporate development for Downtown Hospital, the closest to the site of the attacks. While the hospital saw an uptick in donations afterwards, there is no way to know how much was tied directly to the tragedy, she says.   Continued...

The charred remains of the Asiana Airlines flight 214 sits on the runway at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California July 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jed Jacobsohn