Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snake oil, still available

While many in the health care industry are betting their strategic plan on some combination of accountable care organizations, limited networks, and global payments, there is clearly a segment that is going the other way. These are hospitals that seem to be betting on the discretionary, luxury market for care, and especially cancer care.

These hospitals advertise to a national audience in media of general circulation. I saw a few recently in an airline magazine.

What is striking about some is the modern equivalent of snake oil that they are peddling. Preying on the fear of cancer, their verbiage and offer of amenities overshadows the fact that their proposed combination of therapies has no proven efficacy greater than that found in oncology centers in communities throughout the world.

Here’s one. I am NOT making this up.

Built in Accordance with Nature

Built to Outsmart Cancer

Vastu, the ancient Indian science of architecture and building, works in accordance with the natural laws of the universe – Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Space. A building designed to Vastu standards ensures that these elements exists harmoniously, which in turn balances the energy of the building itself. A Vastu designed building, therefore, positively affects the overall well-being of all who enter.

…[W]e are able to provide what no other cancer center in the world can offer – a healing atmosphere for any and all ailments while enhancing the spiritual, emotional, and mental aspects of the human being.

(After more of this, we find a list of services offered. Like a midrange restaurant that is trying to make its menu appear to be haute cuisine, they use capital letters on normal words to give the appearance of something special. I am especially taken with “Clinical Lab with Pathology”!)

Medical Oncology • Hematology • Radiation Oncology (Including the World’s Most Advanced Robotic Radio Surgery, The CyberKnife™ • Surgical Oncology • State-of-the-Art Imaging & Radiology, Including PET/CT, CT, MRI, Digital Mammography & Nuclear Medicine • Dedicated breast center with Genetic Counseling • Clinical Lab with Pathology • Mind & Body Medicine • Naturopathy • Skin Cancer and Dermatology Center • Clinical Research

We can laugh at this, but it feels obscene when there remain millions of people without access to health care. It also feels obscene when there is so much work to be done on reducing waste and improving the quality and safety of care in clinical settings.


Medical Quack said...

I agree with marketing over done and here's one of your favorites. I stumbled upon a hospital in Orange county CA doing a road show for the daVinci, caught me by surprise and just saw the packing up of the unit, but I had to look twice to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing:)

A while back I wrote about Marketing in healthcare and excuse the title but there was note other words that could make the point:) It does make one wonder whether some of the money spend is in fact educational or is it marketing and where does the line maybe get drawn?

Anonymous said...

Hey, who needs Pathology; all you need is a smartphone:


Barry Carol said...

This seems especially ludicrous when one cancer expert told me recently that as many as 80% of all cancers can be treated in a community, as opposed to a major cancer center, setting and achieve competitive outcomes. That said, if one wants to waste their own money responding to nutty advertising, it’s their prerogative. When it comes to taxpayer or insurer dollars, however, that’s a different matter.

2manytrips2CK said...

How about the fact that CyberKnife is not surgery -- AT ALL -- but an advanced form of radiation!?! See this phrase: "the World’s Most Advanced Robotic Radio Surgery, The CyberKnife™"

Paul Levy said...

Right. Someone forget to tell the ad agency.

Diana said...

It wrong to play with something so serious like cancer....this type of stuff can make someone from really bad cancer think there is still a shot ... even when they have tried it all.... i don't like this.... thanks for the info!

Paul Levy said...

From Facebook:

Pat: It's treacherous, just treacherous.

Alex: Ugh. Have you read Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science? Great quick read about both the (seemingly endless) snakeoil/quackery side, as well as claims overreach by some pharmaceutical co's..

Scot: Incredible.

Carl Sagan warned of people's gullibility in scientific areas in his book "The Demon Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark."

It's unfortunate books like that are not widespread.