Team doctors equal celebrity endorsements?

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Nick over at blogborygmi raises some intriguing questions about whether hospitals' deals to provide team physicians for sports teams like the Red Sox is actually the equivalent of celebrity endorsements. He says:

There are many ways to attract patients to a particular hospital, but this method isn't particularly grounded in the patient's best interests. Why not tout improved outcomes or other evidence-based data? Wouldn't you rather have surgery at a place with the lowest complication rates, instead of just going where Pedro goes? Wouldn't your answer be influenced if Pedro's team was reimbursed for the chance to care for him?

People routinely criticize pharmaceutical companies for vague direct-to-consumer advertising. They say it's wasteful spending and gives patients false impressions. I have yet to hear these people, however, speak out against hospitals involved in a similar practice. This issue will only grow larger as more hospitals seek, and advertise, relationships with sports teams and celebrities.

A commenter on his site also mentions that it is a breach of HIPPA regulations when "Privacy is tossed out the window for the sake of advertising" as the public is made aware of players' injuries. On this point, I would have to assume the players sign some sort of waiver.

Not being a huge sports fan myself, I doubt that a hospital's "official care-giver of the Boston Red Sox" status would mean much to me one way or the other, but the idea that they pay big bucks for the privilege would give me pause. I'd rather see the money used for things that would improve outcomes for all patients, not just an all-star few in hopes their glamour would reflect in the hospital's reputation.

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