How Medical Dramas Can (and Should) Influence Real-Life Medicine

January 20, 2022
Richard Cohen

Richard L. Cohen

“I am a medical television junkie,” confesses longtime health care journalist Richard L. Cohen. “Starting with ER seemingly forever ago, I have watched hundreds of episodes of medical television shows over the years. I am also a veteran health care marketing journalist, having covered the profession since the mid 1980s.”

Here’s an excerpt from Cohen’s new article:

Many in the health care establishment may dismiss these shows as mere fantasy. After all, for dramatic effect, many plotlines you would never realistically see in the real-world health care system: new service lines that appear fully formed in one week, a new logo that graces the side of a building overnight, wings transformed in the blink of an eye, and public relations campaigns that last to the next commercial.

But rather than mere fiction designed to pass the hour, I believe there may be important lessons for health care marketing professionals.

One lesson focuses on public perception. Rightly or wrongly, these shows do contribute to viewers’ beliefs about how our health delivery system works — or ought to work. This contrasts with their real-world experience and can set up a dissonance of expectations.

For example, in each of these shows, once patients are taken back for care there is instant attention from doctors and nurses. No one is left to stew waiting for a doctor. Tests that are ordered seem to happen quickly. MRI, CT scan, blood panel – boom – here they are and now we know what the problem is that needs to be solved.

In real life, it may take hours to get a CT scan arranged, all while the patient and their family may be fuming because that’s not what they saw on television. Same thing with specialist consults. On television it is mere minutes; in the hospital it may take much longer. On television, the doctors frequently round back with their patients; in the real world, not so quickly.

Read the full story now and learn what the takeaways are for real-life doctors and health systems:

When Life Doesn’t Imitate Art: How Hospital TV Shows Set Consumer Expectations — and How to Bridge the Gap

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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