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Beware hospital Web sites’ camouflaged ads


The peacock flounder changes its appearance to avoid predators.

Be leery of hospital Web sites used to market the institutions’ services in an increasingly competitive environment.

For a JAMA Internal Medicine study, researchers Alex John London, of Carnegie Mellon University, and Yael Schenker, of the University of Pittsburgh,  studied online ads for transaortic valve replacement, or TAVR, a minimally invasive procedure to treat the narrowing of the aortic valve common in older adults, particularly men.

The study reviewed the online ads of all 317 U.S. hospitals that offer TAVR and found that all of them cited the procedure’s benefits — but only a quarter said that it had any risk, which of course it does. Further, fewer than 5 percent of the hospitals quantified the risks so that the average consumer  could make intelligent decisions.

And basically promotional material  is camouflaged using graphs, diagrams, statistics and physician testimonials to look like a rigorous and scientific presentation.

Tighter restrictions needed on these ads?

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