Medicine is big business, and cancer care remains a fast-growing and highly competitive part of the overarching healthcare landscape.
To say that the major cancer centers, large hospitals, and health systems are aggressive marketers would be a vast understatement.
A new, troubling report from Truth In Advertising suggests some cancer hospitals are guilty of deceiving patients about their chances of survival, because they give the initial impression that the patient will be treated under the umbrella of precision cancer care, when, in fact, it (precision cancer care) is not available for many types of cancer. And they name names.
We are talking about major, respected academic cancer institutions, such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Moffitt Cancer Center.
This list also includes hospitals and health systems, and for-profit companies such as the four-hospital chain Cancer Treatment Centers of America, whom I’ve previously coined the 800lb marketing gorilla.
It is now commonplace in the U.S. for the major cancer centers—nonprofit academic organizations and for-profit entities alike—to loudly and consistently message ‘personalized’ or ‘precision’ cancer treatment as the last bastion and saving grace for cancer patients. It is often implied that only their institutions are capable of delivering this specialized care.
Dr. Glenn Sabin is a medical doctor. He is also a 28-year cancer survivor motivated to educate on what all this ‘precision medicine’ talk means on a practical level for those facing a cancer diagnosis. This is his advice.
- It is imperative for all to understand costs, benefits, and all suitable options when navigating a noisy marketplace.
- My biggest concern with the large hospitals and academic cancer centers is the promotion of personalized cancer care while knowing—sometimes based on initial prospective patient intake or advance review of clinical notes—that the individual is most likely not a candidate for so-called precision care.
- In this case, the provider (center, hospital) seeks to see the patient in clinic and ‘capture and convert’ the prospective customer for more traditional, standard care treatment.
- Many prospective patients have traveled by car, train, or plane, and have absorbed non-reimbursable expenses in the hope of better ‘precision’ care. And some are in terrible shape to travel to begin with. This is unfair to both patients and caregivers.
- An increasing number of cancer types and subtypes are now candidates for precision cancer care. However, the vast majority of malignant disease is not yet included in the ongoing, but still limited, advances of personalized medicine.
- Take all the aggressive messaging and marketing of ‘precision medicine’, ‘individualized medicine’, and ‘targeted cancer care’ with a grain of salt … until you uncover exactly what this means for your unique situation.
Don’t forget that cancer care clinics, large hospitals, small treatment centers are all businessesand, therefore, compete to provide your care. Don’t lose sight of this under the often confusing and disingenuous marketing and messaging of precision cancer care.