- Online advertising for procedures on hospital websites often downplays the associated risks, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
- Researchers studied the online advertising for transaortic valve replacement (TAVR) at the 317 US hospitals that offer the procedure. While all of the hospitals referenced the procedure as minimally-invasive, only only one in four mentioned the risks and fewer than one in 20 presented those risks numerically.
- The study also found that in some cases, the advertising appeared to be deliberately crafted as to not appear promotional. "Although consumers who are bombarded by television commercials may be aware that they are viewing an advertisement," the authors wrote, "hospital websites often have the appearance of an education portal."
The question of what constitutes appropriate medical advertising to consumers has been debated since direct-to-consumer advertising was approved in the 1990s. The complexity of that argument has grown tenfold since the advent of the Internet. Health consumers are increasingly seeking out information online—according to a 2013 Pew report, one in three US adults have gone online to diagnose a condition, with about half consulting a medical professional about what they found.
Information found online is often difficult to verify, although some providers are trying to change that. Consumers using Google to search for medical information have started seeing an addition to their usual results: A knowledge graph that displays medically-correct and certified information vetted by doctors who work for Google and the Mayo Clinic.