Saturday, July 01, 2006

More on Direct to Consumer Advertising

I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to "Bad Penny" who commented on my direct to consumer advertising post. In that post, I discussed the folly of such advertising for highly specialized products such as orthopedic implants for joint replacement.

The commenter is obviously a highly motivated consumer of her own health care. She clearly took the time to research the pros and cons of various approaches in her own hip replacement and it seems very likely that she made the correct decision for herself. I congratulate her for having researched the science and the technology that goes into joint replacements. I also congratulate her on her excellent results which appear largely due to her own efforts and sense of responsibility.

I never meant to imply that patients shouldn't be allowed information regarding the diagnosis and treatment of their medical conditions. Patient ownership of their conditions is certainly a welcome consequence of the patient autonomy "movement", a movement that the information revolution has helped facilitate. It's the quality of the information that's out there that I occasionally have problems with.

Bad Penny appears, from her comments, not to have been swayed by direct to consumer advertising of any kind and for that I commend her. Unfortunately, such D2C ads are not geared towards to patients like her. They're directed instead to patients who don't plan on doing the necessary leg work and who will take a far more superficial approach to finding the information they need. The idea is to get patients to badger their physicians and insurance companys' administrators to insist on listing their products as covered benefits.

I believe such advertising adds little to patient health and safety and serves more to confuse than to educate. Again, I welcome patients to investigate medical therapies on their own through the wealth of popular and technical information that is readily available. To my way of thinking, such information does not include direct to consumer advertising.


Blogger Bad Penny said...

You're right about the "badgering". One doc I consulted was pushing an experimental implant and emailed me all kinds of info on how to try to get my ins. company to pay for it. I figured that the FDA probably knows more about it than I do, and moved on.

The manufacturer websites influenced me most by making me aware that there were newer and better implants available than the old-timey polyeurethane one. My surgeon picked the implant of course, and offered me three choices on surfaces (metal on metal, ceramic on ceramic, or metal on ceramic). I trusted him and watched him to see which one he thought was best, and picked that one.

I think some docs get complacent. Looking for a doc with better implants led me to a surgeon who cared more about my outcome and who was agressively ambitious about doing the best job possible. Once I found him, I relaxed about the implant choice and went along with what he thought.

As for medical advertising: ugh. It's tacky and undignified. To my mind it belongs in the same classification as political advertising. I've been tempted to decide who to vote for by saving up my junk mail and voting for whoever doesn't send me any. Just kidding. I think.

Thanks for taking the time to read and reply.

July 02, 2006 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. Also, people who are motivated to do their own research do not need the advertising ... they're intelligent enough to go after the information they want. I personally can not see a single (non-greedy) reason for direct advertising.

July 04, 2006 8:50 AM  

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