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Transparency is not marketing

Posted Jan 24 2011 8:52pm
When is transparency not transparency? Answer: When it is marketing.

A recent ad campaign by a well known hospital system suggests that you are better off going to one of its hospitals if you have a stroke because they have a speedy rate of administration of an anti-clotting agent. It is true that rapid administration of this drug is very important.

But the data offered by this hospital system are old, based on the period 2006-2008. According to the Boston Globe , "State officials said that when data for 2009 and 2010 are released next year, they expect the gap between hospitals will have narrowed because of improved care."

Look, no one will argue that you don't get excellent care at this hospital system. Quite the contrary. But to suggest that you will get better care, based on old data, just isn't right. It might even raise unnecessary concern among patients or their families. Imagine, for example, that a loved one is having a stroke and you ask the ambulance to go to a hospital that is farther away because you think that the patient will get faster treatment. The extra time spent in the ambulance might add danger itself.

Also, selective use of clinical outcomes for marketing purposes is a slippery slope. Let's review the issue, for example, of "door-to-balloon" time. The Joint Commission has set a standard for opening blocked arteries with catheterization (percutaneous coronary intervention) within 90 minutes of presentation at an emergency room in a hospital. The hope is to achieve this goal at least 90% of the time.

But one member of this same hospital system only accomplished this standard about 60% of the time for part of 2009. I don't recall a marketing campaign back then that referred to this result.

You cannot be selective about transparency. You have to post the good and the bad. See the VA story below . If you use it for marketing purposes when the numbers are good, you rightfully open yourself up to attack for selective use of statistics.

Let's just accept that transparency is about holding ourselves accountable to a high standard of care and learning from one another, rather than attempting to use it as a marketing tool.
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