Posts Tagged ‘ketchum pr

07
Apr
10

Despite propaganda allegations, agency hired to promote government platform.

In a recent article published in ProPublica, written by Sebastian Jones and Michael Grabell, federal stimulus money is being used to promote the safety of electronic medical records and help curve some of the resistance toward the use of information technology systems.  According to the article, the contract was said to be awarded to the PR giant, Ketchum Inc., by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The question raised in the article, however, was it a good PR move to hire Ketchum? According to the article,

“Consumer advocates warned that the PR contract will only heighten skepticism about the security of online health records. A poll conducted last year by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that roughly six in 10 Americans lack confidence in the privacy of online health records.”

“The public has always been very suspicious over whether electronic health information will be safe,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, a physician and founder of the Coalition for Patient Privacy, which includes consumer, privacy and health groups. Peel called Ketchum a “very, very troubling choice because the last thing the public needs are more tricks being pulled on them.”

The “tricks” Peel refers to included (in my opinion) legitimate PR tactics as well as those that overstepped bounds and were (in my opinion) totally inappropriate.

I believe hiring a PR firm for was a good decision by HHS. PR firms have the ability to get a message out to the public in a manner they will hear and understand.

Not only do I believe that electronic medical records are necessary from a patient safety standpoint, but a virtual requirement to help decrease the ever expanding costs of

Sample Electronic Medical Record - Image Credit to Wikipedia

healthcare. Healthcare reform passing or not, when someone gets multiple CT scans from multiple providers because individual doctors cant get the previous scan results, or don’t even know that a CT had recently been performed, healthcare costs will continue to rise.  And if Ketchum is allowed to do what Ketchum does best, this message will get out to the public loud and clear.

I am concerned, however, with this agency selection. Hiring a PR firm that brings with it accusations of “covert propaganda” to spread the word about a government initiative, and paying for it with stimulus funds, has its own concerns. Combine these concerns with the heated emotions and the current partisan environment in DC, is going to bring with it a set of issues that could potentially discredit the message, discredit the president, discredit the governmental agency, and ultimately hurt the agency.

Only time will tell.

Considering Ketchum’s previous controversies, was hiring this agency a good PR move to make? Or, based on the credible and effective work Ketchum can do, will the issues really matter?  Let us know what you think.




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