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Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014

To their credit, U of I and Intuitive have since pulled the ads, and the university says it's running a thorough investigation to determine why so many senior leaders made a decision that was out of step with the organization's code of conduct.

"As a large and complex organization that adheres to high standards, the U of I is compelled to tell its public this fact: the University is run by fallible human beings," University spokesman Thomas Hardy acknowledged in a statement. "It is operated by people trying their best. We regret when those efforts fall short."

What I'll be looking to see, if the report's findings are made public, is if the university and hospital put a process in place to make sure marketing decisions like this don't slip through the ethical cracks again. And if they do, that's something every hospital and health system should take note of.

"In a large health system, mistakes are going to happen. On occasion, physicians are going to act independently in a manner that could negatively impact the image of the organization," Dunlop says. "The health system or university has to communicate clearly—and frequently—with its physicians and vendors that any communication of an endorsement, implied or otherwise, is a breach of university policy."

Unfortunately, in this case Benedetti and the rest of the hospital's decision makers found out the hard way that "free publicity" often comes at a high cost.

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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.