The branding of eHealth

I’ve been thinking about some of the concepts that James Twitchell talks about in his book Branded Nation : The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld. Basically, he takes a marketing paradigm and uses it to explain some of the behaviour seen in churches, universities, and museums. His essential argument, as far as I understand it, is that when there is an oversupply of *product*, then competition takes place. This competition leads to the actors to engaging in behaviour to differentiate one another in order to gain a competitive advantage. These behaviours ultimately lead to branding. Essentially, marketing your wares based on emotional appeals rather than logical ones. I must point out that branding occurs when there is no easily discernible difference between products.

Okay, so what does this have to do with eHealth? Well, I found reading this book to be somewhat disturbing. Disturbing in the sense that social institutions are behaving no differently than companies trying to sell soap. Well, maybe I’m more shocked that this has all happened without the rest of society really being aware that it’s happening to us.

In terms of eHealth, I wonder if there is an undercurrent of branding that goes on within the medical-academic milieu. Twitchell seems to make a pretty convincing case that universities and colleges have engaged in a branding competition, which ultimately leads to a cheapening of the entire enterprise. I knew that universities deemed teaching as un-important, but I never realized why or how much so. But, within the universities and hospitals are the “disciplines” trying to compete with one another by engaging not on the merits of “scientific discovery”, but on branding? If so, what are the implications?

Maybe I’m a bit naive about things. When I think back to how institutions make funding decisions, it’s based on performance. In research terms, that means grants ($$) and publications. eHealth seems to have some cache in terms of attracting interest, but for how long? Is it necessary to brand the field? What would it look like?

I’m going to think about this for a bit and see if I can brainstorm anything.