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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Bedfellows: News or hype? When it comes to medical reporting, it's often the former:

    The Cleveland Clinic News Service is just one variation on the new alliance between hospitals and local TV news. Most of these arrangements are between a single health institution and a single TV station. They take different forms in different cities, but the deals all too frequently slide across the ad-edit wall. The partnerships may involve traditional commercials, but they often include a promise of some kind of “news” stories, too, involving reporters or news anchors. These can take the form of “ask the expert” programs, quick helpings of medical advice, short stories inserted into the newscasts, or longer, news-like specials that may be hosted by a news anchor or health reporter. In the worst cases, hospitals create the storyline, supplying both the experts and the patients. Some partnerships include a Web component; viewers are sent to the TV station Web site, where they find links to hospital Web sites that provide referrals to doctors or hospital services, and it becomes nearly impossible to separate news and marketing.

    And boy are they effective:

    How well does that work? CJR obtained a PowerPoint presentation given in 2004 to hospital marketers by the Mayo Clinic’s media relations manager, Lee Aase. It showed that brand preference for Mayo for serious medical conditions had increased 59 percent three years after the service began, and brought in new patients to boot. One story, called “Same-Day Teeth,” which told of a quicker way of doing lower-jaw dental implants, generated more than 175 calls, Aase’s report said. It resulted in twenty-three scheduled appointments and downstream revenue—money from patients who eventually had the procedure—estimated at $345,000. The presentation noted that 8.6 million people had seen the December 2001 Medical Edge stories. The value, said Mayo, was greater than ten times the cost of producing the shows.

    Of course, this is not without consequences:

    The partnerships also contribute to the dysfunction of the U.S. health care system. Hospitals understandably want high revenue from high-cost services to help subsidize the uncompensated care they provide to the uninsured who can’t pay on their own, a practice that might be eliminated with a more rational payment system. But stories about profitable, high-tech, yet often unproven procedures stimulate demand for them, fueling ever-rising health care costs.

    Local TV health journalism doesn’t often discuss those big issues, or even often take on the smaller stories that together weave a tale of a health care system in trouble. And marketing partnerships with local hospitals almost mandate that it will be so, substituting lazy journalism and gee-whiz technology stories for the real thing.

    Here in the medical corner of the blogosphere, we do our best to counter that gee-whiz journalism. But we don't expect the Columbia Journalism Review to notice. (via Bioedge.)

    posted by Sydney on 3/15/2007 09:54:00 PM 0 comments


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