Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Those little one-sided news releases pack a big wallop.

Trudy Lieberman offers an entry in the series at on "systematic criteria-driven reviews of health care news releases."  She notes:

This time it’s the long arm of a surgical robot that a healthcare seller hoped would make news. “Midtown Surgery Center Announces First-Ever Use of Robotics During a Total Extra-Peritoneal Hernia Procedure,” the news release said informing us that its “Groundbreaking Use of Robotics Could Change the Face of Inguinal Hernia Repair.” It was that old press release trick I wrote about a couple weeks ago—shout to the world you’re the first, and patients will flock to the door.

While she quotes me, the pertinent quotes are from Dr. Bruce Ramshaw, a Florida hernia surgeon who is the immediate past president of Americas Hernia Society:

Is it better for patients?  That’s the big question news releases don’t answer. But Ramshaw says the real questions are what’s the value to the patient, and where does the robot have value in the context of each patient care process and for each local environment. “The robot is great technology. It’s cool,” he says. But he notes that like all drugs, devices, and screening tests, robotic surgery systems have value in some situations, cause harms in others, and may be wasteful in still others. “Unless we measure the value to patients, we won’t know the actual value of the tool,” he concludes. The country is a long way from measuring the value of such medical interventions. Instead news releases and seller marketing prowess substitute for real information about whether a patient should undergo this procedure or others that have limited or no objective evidence about whether they add value and for whom.

And she concludes:

These kinds of press releases are another form of direct-to-consumer advertising, which does stimulate demand—demand for often unproven technology that threatens to overwhelm the U.S. health system. Such technology may one day be useful and cost effective, but for now it adds mightily to the country’s healthcare tab. Those little one-sided news releases pack a big wallop.

1 comment:

nonlocal MD said...

IMO, direct to consumer advertising in medicine is the worst thing ever. It commoditizes the product, is usually misleading and preys on people's worst fears of disease and death.
Not only that, I know of no other product where they advertise to the person who doesn't pay for it - except teenagers and cars.