PR Specialization

Do’s, Don’ts and Docs: A Prescription for Improving Health Care Through Physician and Patient Conversations

The Choosing Wisely campaign is helping change the way physicians and patients talk about health care, and provides them the opportunity to talk about what care they really need. More than 100 articles have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals referencing the campaign and the recommendations from the specialty societies in just 12 months.

Why was this young campaign so well-received? How has it helped generate a growing conversation about resource use? My colleague, Nick Ferreyros from GYMR Public Relations, and I have a few ideas. We look forward to sharing them, and the great work of our colleagues at GYMR and the ABIM Foundation, with all of you at PRSA Health Academy in Indianapolis. We hope to see you there.

A few minutes before midnight on the evening of April 3, 2012, I sat alone, exhausted, in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. The room was silent except for the constant click, click, click of my mouse as I nervously refreshed our website every other second. The story had already been broken hours ago by the Associated Press and word was beginning to spread about the next day’s announcement. However, all I cared about was making sure that our website, the central point of information we had worked on for months, went live when it was supposed to.

As April 3 became April 4, the site, as if sensing my anxiety, refreshed and the content — which we had spent countless hours meticulously editing, proofing and polishing — appeared in bright, bold colors illuminating the darkened hotel room. For a few hours, I could rest.

On the morning of April 4, 2012, the ABIM Foundation, along with Consumer Reports and nine medical specialty societies launched the Choosing Wisely® campaign at a standing-room-only event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The ABIM Foundation, long a leader in advancing medical professionalism, created the campaign to encourage physicians and patients to engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and procedures that may provide no benefit, and actually could cause harm. To help begin these conversations, the nine societies created lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.”

The event marked the official unveiling of these lists, and while we were hopeful they would be well-received and embraced by physicians and patients, we were surprised, and, quite frankly, a bit overwhelmed by the response.

In addition to a story in the Associated Press, the announcement was covered in the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe and NPR. Every major network — ABC, CBS, and NBC — did a piece on it that night.

The website, which 196 people visited the day before, was flooded with 60,000 visits and hit 100,000 within 72 hours.

While the volume of coverage could certainly be counted as a measure of success, what is more telling is how the story was covered. Here were nine organizations representing more than 300,000 physicians telling the world that there were certain tests or procedures that were being done too much and could be causing harm.

In a world of more, more, more, they were saying less, less, less.

And that was how the story was covered — not with the hysterics of rationing or that people were being denied care they needed — but that too much care was being delivered and it was wasteful and harmful.

The announcement was so successful that 17 more medical societies joined the campaign and announced new lists in February 2013. And, later this year, 20 or more will follow suit.

The Choosing Wisely campaign is helping change the way physicians and patients talk about health care, and provides them the opportunity to talk about what care they really need. More than 100 articles have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals referencing the campaign and the recommendations from the specialty societies in just 12 months.

Why was this young campaign so well-received? How has it helped generate a growing conversation about resource use? My colleague, Nick Ferreyros from GYMR Public Relations, and I have a few ideas. We look forward to sharing them, and the great work of our colleagues at GYMR and the ABIM Foundation, with all of you at PRSA Health Academy in Indianapolis. We hope to see you there.

John Held, APR, director of communications at the ABIM Foundation, will be presenting at the PRSA Health Academy Conference in Indianapolis on May 2.

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