Direct to Consumer Advertising: Has it gone too far?
Could this be taking direct to consumer advertising (D2C) a bit far? The rather arcane decision making that goes into determining which piece of surgical hardware should go into a given patient is difficult enough for surgeons to make. Can patients really come to informed decisions about such things on the basis of company-produced literature?
While, in principle, I'm all for patient autonomy, in this case I have my reservations. What about a product that is perhaps not as good as those made by its competitors but that has a stellar D2C marketing plan? Is the consumer interest really served by such advertising?
Might an orthopedist, concerned about maintaining his "market share" be unduly influenced by a barrage of patients clamoring to have a particular product implanted? What if the product requires a different (and unfamiliar) technique to put in compared to standard products? What if its construction just doesn't "look right" to the surgeon who has to put it in (and who often has very limited hard efficacy data to rely on)?
What kind of intelligent input can a patient really add to the decision making process in this setting? As an internist, I would be hard-pressed to provide meaningful input into deciding which of the products available that a surgeon should implant in me.
Don't get me wrong. Many consumers are quite savvy and definitely do their homework before committing to a major medical procedure. The medical literature is readily available (and often highly comprehensible by intelligent lay people). I have no problem with this kind of motivated and informed consumer. I myself have had sophisticated patients bring pertinent medical articles to me regarding their own care.
But I think the kind of D2C advertising seen here crosses the line of what is actually in the best interests of the consumer.
Then again, maybe the online degree program advertised below the Stryker ad offers classes in total knee replacement?