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Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014

"Ads where physicians appear to be endorsing commercial products may then call into question the motives of the physician when making a specific recommendation for treatment," Dunlop says. "In this case, is the physician recommending the Da Vinci because of a relationship with Intuitive or because it is the best course of treatment? Is the physician being compensated by Da Vinci for the endorsement? It is a slippery slope."

And though the fine print states that the hospital and its staff were not compensated for appearing in the advertisement, the fact that even one of the physicians had a previous financial relationship with Intuitive is enough to give the general public cause for concern.

So where does U of I, or any organization facing ethical criticism, go from here? Well, that depends on the strength of its brand foundation. An esteemed organization like the U of I "has a great deal of equity and trust built up with its brand constituents," Dunlop says.

"My belief is that this won't seriously erode that trust. This was an example of extremely bad judgment by a small group of physicians who have an existing relationship with the vendor they promoted," he says. "Without a doubt, the university will work swiftly to more clearly define the ways in which it handles relationships with commercial entities, to avoid any perception of undue influence upon its medical decision-making."

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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.