Smart social media health care comments this week…and then there was Mark Cuban

On his Not Running A Hospital blog, former hospital exec Paul Levy writes:

Levy’s entire post was a copy of a comment by Dr. Tazia K. Stagg on our site, left in response to Sally James’ post on social media reactions to the PBS “Emperor of All Maladies” series.

Here is Dr. Stagg’s comment:

I’m board-certified in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine. The university I went to for college and medical school has a public radio station and an NCI-designated cancer hospital on its campus. The mission of the hospital is “to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.” Its current marketing tagline is “Your Best Chance For Beating Cancer.”

Six weeks ago, I emailed the hospital’s CEO (copied the founder and the marketing director) to ask why he thought it was okay to use the inaccurate slogan. The marketing director replied with “I would love the opportunity to talk with you about this,” and instructed me to call him.

Then I found billboards around my neighborhood advertising a health fair–presented by the cancer hospital–to be held on campus for poor minorities (my neighbors). Five weeks ago, I emailed the marketing director to attempt to prevent the inappropriate testing announced on the event website. Instead of answering, he replied with, “I am more than happy to answer any questions that you have.” and “I am happy to speak with you about this.”

I decided to intervene on the event, which appears to have been designed and organized by the marketing department of the cancer hospital. In one of the prostate cancer screening workshops, I requested a microphone during the Q&A session. I asked the non-clinician who had delivered the inadequate presentation in English to tell us about his qualifications and conflicts of interest. (He hilariously answered “I work at [cancer center] and I have no conflicts of interest.”) Then I pointed out that screening experts recommend against prostate cancer screening, and asked the non-clinician to tell us about the likelihood that a man who accepted these tests would experience benefit or harm (because this hadn’t been included in the non-clinician’s presentation). This, too, was foreign to him.

(At the conclusion of the workshop, as the poor men were rushing out of the auditorium to claim their tickets to free net-harmful tests, he approached me privately, asked me if I had questions for him, didn’t answer my questions, and recommended that I “never do that again.” He also instructed me to “Be careful.”)

This past weekend, I attended a town hall meeting (Ken Burns documentary screening, radio program taping/panel discussion, public Q&A session) at the hospital. A non-clinician on the panel twice recommended prostate cancer screening.

I wasn’t selected to ask a question, so I later emailed my question to the hospital CEO (copied the founder, others, of course not the marketing director): “I attended this morning’s promotional event and would like to understand the following. Considering the position of the word “prevention” in [cancer hospital’s] mission statement: Is there now, or has there ever been, a preventive medicine specialist among [cancer hospital’s] leadership or on its staff? If not, why not?

The marketing director sent a reply. Guess what he wrote!

When Levy blogged about that Stagg comment, a commenter on Levy’s site wrote:

“…we in medicine are now coping with the aftermath of decades of pounding into people (both doctors and patients) that early cancer detection is critical and they need to screen. Just as with quality and safety issues, it is hard to convert the ignorant, especially when you are doing a 180 as with screening. Witness the apparent recent Twitter battle between Mark Cuban and Charles Ornstein. Yes, I believe there are those who are capitalizing on this ignorance to make money. But, I do think a large proportion of even the provider community is still ignorant itself.”

More on that Cuban missive crisis in a moment.  Back to the Sally James (@jamesian) piece about social media reactions first.  Another notable comment was left on our site by Casey Quinlan – @MightCasey, as she goes by on Twitter – who wrote:

“In a complex system that spews cash like an ATM on crank, efforts at change will have to come from outside, I think. The insiders have too much at stake in preserving the status quo.”

I just met Casey at the recent Lown Institute Right Care conference in San Diego. Smart.  Hilarious.  Powerful combination.

Now back to Mark Cuban – billionaire, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team – and Tweep who wrote this week:

And he wrote other stuff that set off some smart responses from journalists and bloggers, including:


There was much more.  

Wow.  It was a special week in terms of discussions about health care on-the-air, in blogs, in blog user comments, and in social media discussions.


Addendum:  Later today, Andrew Holtz posted his perspective, “Incessant Testing: Experts are right, but Mark Cuban will prevail.”


Follow us on Twitter:

and on Facebook.

You might also like

Comments (2)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Mighty Casey

April 3, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Wotta week, indeed, for health policy wonks and healthcare journos. “Cuban missive crisis” gets a special hat tip from this former standup comic + major media refugee. That Twitter discussion was/is popcorn-worthy.

Daniel Pendick

April 6, 2015 at 10:16 am

This all drives home one of the central dilemmas of being a health care communicator these days. The best evidence-based advice about screening is often at odds with the expectations and false medical beliefs of READERS, which are the result of a generation of false promises by the healthcare industry (like the messages delivered at the screening event described above). So, ironically, when you deliver what you believe to be an accurate message, both the readers/patients and the scare mongers push back at you. On the other hand, a series of findings in the past year or two suggest that men may be growing skeptical about compulsive PSA screening and at least considering active surveillance in cases of low-risk cancer. It will just a take a lot of time to turn this boat around.