What Is A Children's Hospital

July 16, 2007
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Tom Hanley will start with the mothers.

The more than 8,000 new moms who give birth at Spectrum Health each year are the primary targets for marketing the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, said Tom Hanley, the man who, as marketing and communications director, is responsible for selling the concept.

“Typically in health care, 80 percent of choices are made by women,” Hanley said. “We really are targeting moms.”

With the start of construction on Spectrum Health’s $250 million children’s hospital, Hanley comes from the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, a 135-bed, freestanding hospital created in 1996. His charge is to market the hospital in the 37 Michigan counties in its service area. The new building on Michigan Street NE is expected to be completed in 2010.

“From a marketing perspective, you have to have the category sell of what is a children’s hospital before you can support the brand sell of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital,” Hanley said.

“Most kids are healthy. People are not thinking about ‘If something ever happened to my child, where would I go?’ What’s happened, particularly in children’s health care, is there are fewer and fewer hospitals with pediatricians on staff and pediatrics-trained people working there, so children’s hospitals fill that gap of providing specialty care to children and families.”

Creating partnerships with doctors and other hospitals, sending DeVos Children’s Hospital physicians to far-flung communities like Traverse City to see patients, providing new mothers with detailed pregnancy and child health information on the World Wide Web — all are strategies being put to use, Hanley said. DeVos Children’s Hospital works with Fairly Painless Advertising in Holland, he added.

“That’s what a children’s hospital should be: a resource for information and value back to the community,” he said.

Hanley, 52, grew up in Boston and holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Suffolk University in Beantown. He started his career as a newspaper reporter in Massachusetts and New Hampshire before moving to Connecticut in the 1980s when his wife, Kathy, took a job as a photographer for the Hartford Courant. Hanley switched his career to marketing, spending time at Mount Sinai Hospital and as a corporate communications officer for the Society of Savings. The Hanleys have two children in college in Boston.

Hanley said Spectrum Health’s size, the availability of a large marketing and communications department to support the children’s hospital, and the health system’s goal of becoming a “destination” by 2010 convinced him to make the leap after 18 years at children’s hospitals in Hartford. Just before Hanley arrived in late winter, the hospital’s new logo was trotted out. “I love the imagery of the logo with the building on the hill with sun coming up over it,” Hanley said. “It’s symbolic of the dawning of a new era in children’s health in West Michigan.

“I just went through the Inside GR program put on by Leadership Grand Rapids, and I found many new reasons to be excited about the resources and possibilities here. … Grand Rapids has a lot to be proud of and excited about.” HQ

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