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Marin General Hospital Wants You to Be Healed in Your Happy Place

Columnist: Bill Meagher
December, 2014 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

The music was fine, but my back still hurt after I took my headphones off.

“More than just a place, Marin is a state of mind…. And somewhere between the ocean and the bay, from Mt. Tam to the redwood forests, we find balance, peace, inspiration and energy. Put simply, Marin is a transformative, healing place.”
The marketing gurus at Marin General Hospital (MGH) get the credit for that wordsmithing, as they connect their Greenbrae hospital to something far beyond surgery suites and semi-private rooms.
The transformation of Marin General to transformative Marin doesn’t stop with ad copy. The hospital also has a TV commercial featuring the affable Doug McConnell, a Corte Madera resident and the long-time host of the now-defunct “Bay Area Backroads” TV show. In the spot, McConnell talks about how the good folks at MGH helped him heal when he had a stroke.
Finally, the hospital has its own Pandora radio station, “Marin General Hospital’s Healing Sounds.” According to the ad that runs alongside the online channel, music is good medicine. Listeners who click on the ad are sent to the MGH site where they’ll find the healing stories of McConnell and others. The voice-over in the ad says that studies show music can lower blood pressure, help with dementia and is “just what the doctor ordered.”
Another ad talks about getting you to your happy place.
I downloaded the station, as I’m all about thinking globally and listening locally. It offered me Santana’s “Black Magic Woman,” Mike Bloomfield’s “Don’t’ Think Twice” and Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved” in a small sample. The music was fine, but my back still hurt after I took my headphones off.
Marketing health care these days seems to land one in the same neighborhood as cable companies in terms of love and tolerance. Some of that’s natural, considering how we view insurance companies and their hijinks when it comes to coverage that waxes and wanes, seemingly dependent on the company’s bottom line and not so much on what your doc says you need.
We’re undoubtedly influenced by Big Pharma and how much the miracle drugs that are being developed cost. Some cancer drugs run as high as $100,000 per year, which tends to move the idea of “miracle drug” away from what the drug does and more toward how the hell one affords it without, say, selling a kidney.
And I haven’t even gotten into the GOP’s favorite political fight, Obamacare. Regardless of where you come down on the political spectrum or how you feel about Covered California, the endless drumbeat coming from the likes of Texas Governor Rick Perry or Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell has not only put health care front and center, it has many of us wishing our doctors would prescribe us a little Vicodin to ease the pain in our ears.  
Then there’s the competition. Kaiser has hired actress and multi-Emmy award winner Alison Janney to tell us to live well and thrive in all its TV and radio spots. And this is to say nothing of the heated rivalry between Sutter Health and MGH, springing from a leased arrangement between them that went very, very bad. How bad? Imagine the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and Dodger Yasiel Puig in scrubs, in a lighting storm…under water…heavily armed.
So it almost goes without saying that cutting through all that noise to sell your hospital to those who might choose its services is going to be hard work.
You almost have to ask: What took MGH so long to link itself with the aura that envelops Marin for many locals and how far the hospital might go? Mount Tamalpais has long been considered a place with spiritual powers and the ability to heal. At what point does MGH begin working the Sleeping Maiden into its pitch?
I called MGH to inquire about where its marketing program might go next, but no one returned the call.
Please understand, I long ago made my peace with the idea that people get better and worse from things none of us understand. Whatever gets you through your dark night of pain is OK by me. I’m hammering down valerian, turmeric curcumin and super critical omega in breathtaking amounts in a quest to reduce inflammation in my back and hips, forsaking traditional painkillers and anti-inflammatory meds along with their destructive side effects on the liver—something I reserve for glasses of Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc.
The selling of medical care in Marin has morphed. I’ll check back with MGH to see if it wants to chat about how many of us pile into Greenbrae looking for our happy place.
Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz, an associate editor with The Deal in its West Coast office in Petaluma and an author. He wishes you the most joyous of holidays and a hangover-free New Year’s Day.

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