Research Series: Healthcare New Media Marketing

U.S. Hospitals

on YouTube

A Test to the Altruistic Marketing Approach

Edgar Huang, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University
535 W Michigan Street, IT471, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA, 317-278-4108

Accepted for presentation to the IEEE International Conference on Healthcare Informatics (ICHI), September 9–11, 2013
Published in Journal of Communication in Healthcare, 6(2), 128–134, 2013



Background: U.S. hospitals are approaching a critical mass in using YouTube videos to market themselves. It is important to find out how such videos are being implemented by hospitals and received by their users so that hospitals can use this social media site to efficiently serve their online users.

Objective: By comparing video contents, the study intended to test the notion of altruistic marketing.

Methods: The study was conducted in late 2012. It adopted the content analysis approach to study the hospital videos on YouTube. Coding content for each hospital on YouTube included the number of subscribers, number of videos uploaded in the past 12 months, total video views in the life span of a channel, and 14 types of video content under four categories. By October 2012, out of 5,754 U.S. hospitals, 634 (11%) had created a channel on YouTube.  One-third of these hospitals were drawn in a systematic probability sample. In total, 210 hospitals’ YouTube channels were examined. Only the most recent 20 videos from each hospital were sampled and coded to come up with a fair comparison. In total, 2,560 videos were coded. The conclusions apply to all U.S. hospitals that have a YouTube channel. 

Results: Out of the four categories of videos, the first two, advertising videos and informational videos (70.86%), mainly promoted a hospital while the latter two, educational videos and entertainment videos (29.14%), mainly served users. From the users’ end, the first two categories of self-promoting videos attracted a total of 34.38% of views, but the latter two categories attracted a total of 65.62% of views. The larger a hospital was, the more videos it uploaded to YouTube, the more video views it attracted, and the more subscribers it attracted.

Conclusions: Users are enthusiastic about patient education videos, surgery process videos, and especially public service announcement videos; however, hospitals have posted mostly videos that try to sell themselves. To attract traffic, hospitals could consider providing more videos that pertain to users’ interests. The findings from the study can help hospitals better understand healthcare video content development and better position their marketing strategies.

Keywords: Hospitals, YouTube, videos, altruistic marketing, users