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Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014

A decision by hospital leaders to participate in an advertising effort with an equipment vendor was intended to promote institutional expertise with robotic surgery. Instead it sparked an outcry among critics.


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Despite the countless blog posts, tweets, and articles published about the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System's da Vinci advertisement controversy, I'm still left with one resounding question: How did so many high-ranking officials think featuring several physicians and staff in a medical device company-financed ad was a good idea?

To briefly recap, a full-page ad promoting da Vinci robotic surgery, and featuring a dozen U of I physicians and staff in white lab coats, ran in the January 19 issue of the New York Times Magazine. The hospital was not compensated by Intuitive, the medical device company that makes the da Vinci technology, for its staff members appearing in the ad, although several of its doctors had done consulting work for the company in the past. In fact, one surgeon received about $16,000 in the most recent one-year reporting period, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The hospital's decision to participate in the ad was intended to promote institutional expertise with robotic surgery. Instead it sparked an outcry among critics, none louder than former Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy, who called the hospital's ethics into question in a series of blistering blog posts.

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2 comments on "Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?"


Michael Millenson (3/20/2014 at 7:58 AM)
I almost laughed out loud at the title of this article. How silly and solipsistic. Even by health care standards, this was a minor scandal: well-intentioned employees went overboard and tarnished the institution's reputation temporarily. It's a small, inside-page story in the Chicago Tribune. It has nothing to do with patient care. Few to no patients or doctors will care about it in a few weeks except to remember that someone at the hospital showed poor judgment. Not only were no patient hurt, no one even embezzled money! By Chicago and Illinois standards, this is minor stuff. The only reason it is important is in a larger health care context; that is, as Paul Levy pointed out, device makers crossing a line. That impact will linger in the industry, as it should. But U of I's reputation in its market? Hardly any at all.

ben (3/20/2014 at 2:29 AM)
My trust was shaken the moment I saw the ad. There are two types of robotic surgeons. Those that use the device for specific solutions for patient care, and those that shamelessly promote the device because of its' perceived wow factor. These are the PSA test only prostatectomy cutters, and the vaginal hysterectomy avoiders plunging into the abdomen because it appeals to their ego. The second kind are the one needless driving cost and muddying the science. U of I is definitely on their team. Perception first, science second. Have another canoli fellas.