Who needs doctors when you can diagnose yourself?

March 22, 2007

CBS News reported that drug firms have dramatically increased their spending on television advertising to consumers.  Direct-to-consumer advertising has had a huge impact over consumers in the last few years. pills.jpg

 From a PR perspective:

1. Companies should focus more on educating their consumers. There seem to be a lot of commercials that say “2 out of 3 doctors” recommend a prescription drug.  Hmmmm, I wonder how many doctors were asked and who they were?  With more truthful information people will be able to make an educated decision on whether or not they should even ask their doctor if they need a drug. 

2. Create a Web site and promote that.  Sure, some drug companies can tell the mass media to ask their doctors, but why not let them find out more?  Let consumers know that they can visit a Web site to find out more information about a drug that could give them better health.

3.  Provide literature.  Yep, believe it or not, some people are still not tech savvy and do not go to the Internet for information.  So provide a toll-free number and let consumers ask for brochures or more literature.

4.  Give them alternatives.  I’m not a doctor, but I know there are simple ways to help cure common sicknesses like a cold.  Let people know that vitamin C could help them relieve their cold symptoms.  Drug companies should let them know that taking a prescription medicine is not the only way to cure some sicknesses. doctor.jpg

From a different perspective, I understand that some people could argue that direct-to-consumer advertising prescription medicines could be informational for those who would like to be more involved in their health care.  I understand that some people might not be aware they need a drug in the first place until they see a commercial.

However, I do believe that this could be a nuisance to doctors.   It could become a huge waste of time in a doctors office explaining why a patient is not being prescribed Nexium even though they had seen the commercial and swear it’s right for them. 

I think that drug companies should be very careful when advertising to consumers.  I believe some people might start to believe they could have graduated from medical school and can prescribe themselves.  Consumers should seek as much information as they can before diagnosing themselves, including asking your doctor. 


Go ahead, give your doc a test-drive

March 14, 2007

Some hospitals and medical centers have begun to broadcast surgeries on the Internet via webcasts.  I have a feeling there are some we don’t care to see.  The very first webcast surgery was Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in Texas.  The live brain surgery had an audience of about 2,000 people.  Since then, 9,000 people have race carwatched the cast. 

The doctors who webcast their surgeries provide step-by-step explanations.  Live viewers are able to ask questions while the surgery is taking place.  I’m not to sure I would want to be the patient under the knife while America watched, but I guess some people are willing to just put themselves out there. 

These doctors who agree to the surgeries are pretty brave.  The audiences for this surgery have a wide range.  Not only will you have possible patients in the future watching your every move, but you could have other doctors critiquing your work.  That doesn’t sound like much fun. 

Urological surgeon Andrew Portis, M.D., webcasted a surgery using X-ray radiation.  During the webcast, an observer asked him if he could do the surgery without all the of X-raying.  According to Dr. Portis, you can.  After the webcast, Portis and his medical team have since cut down X-ray radiation during surgeries. 

As a public relations student and soon professional (hopefully), I have been taught that it’s important for organizations to be transparent.  I believe this is extremely important in the medical field.  Doctors are being sued for malpractice all the time, and hospitals can take a lot of heat from the media.  A webcast surgery might cause some serious damage.  What happens when a viewer thinks he sees something the doctor is doing wrong and goes and tells the rest of the community how bad the doctor at the local hospital is?  His friends will take his word for it over the hospital’s. 

On the other hand, I believe webcasting surgeries can do a lot of good.  Those tech-savvy patients who are watching a surgery they will possibly need, can experience the procedure before it’s done.  These potential customers can watch their doctors and possibly feel better about having surgery.  And talk about media coverage!  There is an unbelievable audience for these surgeries.

Now, instead of watching Grey’s Anatomy and ER to look at all the blood and guts, you can just sit at your computer at home and possibly watch your friend under the knife!


Out of Control Child Obesity

March 8, 2007

Let’s face it, kids in America are fat.  Hell, America is fat.  Who is to blame?  We could blame fast food companies who have targeted children as consumers.  It could be obese parents who contribute to their child’s weight problem.  It might be schools that have cut out their physical education programs because of budget–who knows?

 Where are the ethics in obesity?  McDonald’s has been sued by some people who claim eating the food has made them fat.  Those same “fat” people have said the fast food chain implies that the food is part of a healthy diet.  I believe this is one of those instances that people only hear what they want to hear.  Are these people saying that they do not have the ability to protect themselves?  McDonald’s has implemented healthy foods into its menu. 

 On the other side of the spectrum, some people fail to realize the good that McDonald’s has done.  The Ronald McDonald House Charities , located in about 50 counties, has used more than $440 million to provide a “home way from home” specializing in pediatrics to help families with serious ill children.  Children who are receiving care at nearby hospitals have the opportunity to stay at the Ronald McDonald House and “escape the tension of a hospital atmosphere.” 

So is McDonald’s a fast food chain that has contributed to the epidemic of child obesity in the U.S.?  Look at all of the stories on the Ronald McDonald House Charities Web site from families who have nothing but good stories about how the charity has helped.  Some could argue that it’s ironic that the food at McDonald’s could potentially put children in such a harm’s way that they will sooner or later need the charity. 

 It’s important for companies to shed negative press with positive.  There are the groups out there such as anti McDonald’s who claim the fast food restaurant is such a horrible place.  Then, there are the public relations professionals writing press releases and increasing publicity to shed light on the fact that McDonald’s has done positive things with its profits.