Hospital says it gives content to short-staffed media

Lindsey Miller of Ragan Communications Inc., a publisher of corporate communications, writes that Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has found a way to “spread its message” – by providing content to the area’s short-staffed television stations. [Update: The link to that article has since been moved behind a pay wall.]

The hospital‘s director of marketing communications says she has flipped the problem of reduced local medical reporting due to layoffs to her advantage by providing features and experts to help fill the gap, particularly at TV stations such as Boston’s Fox affiliate.

    For example, Beth Israel’s hand surgery numbers had been down lately, so [director of marketing Rhonda] Mann pitched a four- to five-minute segment on carpal tunnel syndrome, making one of the hospital’s surgeon available to talk about the condition. Now, every month or so, the station brings in someone from Beth Israel to present common health tips. Doing so fills time and gives anchors a topic to promote for the next day.

Mann says stations are looking for health content “because a lot of the first people laid off covered a beat, health in particular. She provides examples of how she helps producers:

    To fill that void, Mann pitches health topics of general interest — such as back pain, headaches, heartburn — and boils them down into five easy-to-remember tips or facts. She also makes it easy for the station by offering to do the work.

A quick search of the WFXT-Boston Web site found a number of stories featuring the hospital’s doctors:

AHCJ left phone and e-mail messages with the station yesterday in an attempt to get its comments. If we hear from the station, we will update this post.

According to the article, Mann also provides health content, from hospital publications, to TuBoston, described as “the largest Spanish newspaper in New England.”

AHCJ and the Society of Professional Journalists have urged news outlets to avoid arrangements with hospitals that improperly influence health coverage, saying unethical partnerships interfere with independent news coverage of health care. That includes broadcasting news or interviews prepared by hospitals.

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