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Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014

Perhaps Enrico Benedetti, head of U of I's surgery department, said it best while debating the pros and cons of the ad in an email, obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act: "On one side it would be a lot of free publicity for our program, on the other side we could be criticized to be included in an industry generated campaign."

And therein lies the rub—a hospital can promote its expertise with a specific medical device in a number of ways, so long as it is the hospital that pays for the ad.

"It is not unusual for health systems and medical centers to promote their use of a specific advanced technology, such as the 64-Slice CT for coronary angiography, Gamma Knife for applying image guided radiation to brain tumors, or the da Vinci Robot for minimally invasive robotic surgery. The ads typically promote the benefits of these newer technologies," Dan Dunlop, CEO of Jennings, a North Carolina-based healthcare marketing agency told me. I exchanged emails with Dunlop this week. "However," he wrote, "they don't cross the line of actually endorsing the product. They are typically presented as one treatment option that the institution has in its arsenal."

But by appearing to endorse the product, the U of I's sullied its ethical standing in public's perception.

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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.