How we get persuaded to do stuff we don’t even want to do

Have I mentioned how much I love Dr. Robert Cialdini’s iconic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion? If I ever start believing that I’m unique or different or even a free thinker, Dr. Cialdini’s work has the power to smack me upside the head and remind me that, like you, I’m apparently just a little helpless sheep being compliantly led around by smart marketers.

Here’s a good example from the book: the six psychological shortcuts that guide our behaviour choices.  Continue reading

Why patients hate the C-word

Way back in 1847, the American Medical Association panel on ethics decreed that “the patient should obey the physician.” There may very well be physicians today – in the era of empowered patients and patient-centred care and those darned Medical Googlers who glance nostalgically backwards at those good old days.

Let’s consider, for example, the simple clinical interaction of prescribing medication.  If you reliably take the daily meds that your doctor has prescribed for your high blood pressure, you’ll feel fine.  But if you stop taking your medication, you’ll still feel fine.  At least, until you suffer a stroke or heart attack or any number of consequences that have been linked to untreated hypertension.

Those who do obediently take their meds are what doctors call “compliant”. And, oh. Have I mentioned how much many patients like me hate that word? Continue reading

Surgeons make millions on Medtronic payroll

Medtronic, the world’s largest medical device maker, hit the motherlode with a bioengineered bone growth protein widely used since 2002 in spinal fusion surgery.  Known as INFUSE® Bone Graft, it’s a genetically engineered version of a protein that’s naturally released by the body and used during surgery to stimulate bone growth – for example, in order to strengthen the lower spine by fusing two adjacent vertebrae together.

But Medtronic forgot to mention that many of its favourable studies published about INFUSE had been drafted and edited by its own employees (including marketing department staff, in a practice called medical ghostwriting) while 13 physicians claiming to be the study authors had been paid $210 million by Medtronic over a 15-year period, according to a U.S. Senate investigation. Continue reading

How the Gartner Hype Cycle is like marriage

.Once a year, the industry analyst firm Gartner publishes a sweeping set of technology trend reports based on what’s known as the Gartner Hype Cycle. They’re commonly used, for example, in assessing over-eager tech startup companies hoping to launch The Next Big Thing – or as Forbes uncharitably describes them, “the hype-meisters who overpromote into a stratospheric hype zone of self-importance”.  Ouch!  Continue reading

Has industry co-opted patient engagement?

Here at Ethical Nag World Headquarters, I just figured out that it’s entirely possible I might have the concept of patient engagement all wrong.  Until recently, I accepted this basic definition, courtesy of the Center for Advancing Health:(1)

“Patient engagement: actions individuals must take to obtain the greatest benefit from the health care services available to them.”

Sounds good, right? As a heart attack survivor with ongoing cardiac issues, I really liked the idea that a whole bunch of us seem keenly interested in doing whatever it takes to obtain the greatest benefit from our health care services. In fact, many folks far above my pay grade maintain that engaged patients may just represent the future game changers of health care. Health IT strategy consultant Leonard Kish, for example, wrote in August that if patient engagement were a drug, it would be “the blockbuster drug of the century – and malpractice not to use it.”

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Medical journals: “information-laundering for Big Pharma”?

Whenever you read a medical journal article with a title like Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies, you know it’s a bad day for patients.

As a heart attack survivor who spends way too much of my time hanging out with cardiologists, pain specialists and other doctors who read these journals, I especially hate seeing this article written by a person like Dr. Robert Smith, who was himself the editor of the British Medical Journal for 25 years.*

Dr. Smith’s not alone. Consider Dr. Richard Horton of the medical journal, Lancet, who once wrote:

“Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry.”

Continue reading