Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hitting a nerve

Back in October I posted about some of the marketing brochures I collected at the NEDA conference. I singled out one from Rogers Memorial Hospital, partly because it was so egregious and partly because Rogers is the closest residential treatment center to my town, and it's the place my daughter likely would have gone had we chosen in-patient treatment for her.

I've been meaning to post the follow-up to that thread, which was that I got a letter from the COO of Rogers Memorial himself. Here for your edification are some quotes from the letter, along with my commentary.

Quote: Your comments and suggestions for improving our brochure have already been received by our marketing department and will weigh in our minds when we revise our eating disorder materials in the future.

Commentary: The point wasn't a critique of the brochure; I was discussing the program. Big difference. Revising the marketing materials isn't going to change your outcomes for the real live people who go to Rogers. Point well and truly missed.

Quote: We would appreciate the consideration of sending us such criticism directly, rather than taking your complaints immediately and directly to a public forum like your website.

Commentary: I'm sure you would. And I'm sure, had I called you with my "complaints," you would have taken them very seriously indeed.

Quote: Advocates for mental health must work together to achieve greater awareness and to break down the stigma that our society attaches to mental health disorders.

Commentary: I'm with you on that one . . . though I think my notion of advocacy is probably not the same as yours. To me, advocacy means empowering patients and their families with accurate and true information, true choices, and effective treatments.

Quote: Schedule a visit to our campus and really get to know our medical staff and administrators who have trained and practice Maudsley approaches and techniques when they are applicable.

Commentary: It's those last four little words that give it away: when they are applicable. Family-based treatment is the standard of care for adolescents. It should be the norm rather than the exception.

I know there are caring staff at Rogers Memorial. I challenge them to take a hard look at their treatment protocols for teens and evaluate them in the light of evidence-based research--then come up with a new vision. You have the potential to do a lot of good. I'd love to see you doing it.


Anonymous said...


That person is a Grade-A d-bag.

(I reserve such eloquent commentary for people of that caliber :P)

mary said...

"We would appreciate the consideration of sending us such criticism directly, rather than taking your complaints immediately and directly to a public forum like your website."

I've heard that before! I think I'd prefer the open and honest approach any day over a brochure that reads as a sales pitch. They could have responded long ago on that post.
Book companies and learning programs actually use the same tactics to sell their "product" to the schools. The first time I heard a "sales pitch" involving something that shouldn't need a pitch I was disgusted at the idea that they'd even attempt it but also at how easily many people were exploited,"I'll take one of those and two of those" all while us tax payers, or in this case parents of sick children, have very little say. We deserve to have a say regardless of our education (me).
The part that saddens me is that it requires waking up parents to be advocates when they may be in a state of numbness or fear.
If Rogers is a great place they won't need the brochures as us parents who know people who can use their services will TELL them that it has a good workable program. It may very well be an excellent program but as you said, home should be the FIRST place that gives a person a safe place to fight their ED. Parents need to CHOOSE to see their children through recovery no matter how difficult it is and even if it means giving them over to a program that can help. It's no different than breathing or drinking water....humans need food to live and they need to keep it down and digest it the way it's meant to be digested. Our bodies are such brilliant machines when we use them properly.
Anyway Harriet, you did well to speak out!

Anonymous said...

Harriet -- I share your perspective. At Center for Change they normally give you a questionnaire to fill out on discharge. But I had raised serious questions about quality of care and on discharge there was no questionnaire for us. I followed up by email with my concerns, but got no response. So, I posted some of my concerns about CFC on Laura Collins' blog some time ago. I believe it's perfectly legitimate to share information in public about something as important as treating ED's.
A problem similar to the advertising brochures are the testimonials posted on many of the treatment centers' websites, including CFC's. They are one-sided and do not represent all, or perhaps even most, of the true opinions of their patients. They represent marketing at its worst.
The constant repetition of the same language in the testimonials, i.e. "the Center really changed my life" is spooky. These places can promote "groupthink" and a cult-like atmosphere.

Harriet said...

Too right, Mary.

Anonymous, that's *almost* funny that you got no questionnaire. Almost funny because it's so damn blatant--as if not filling out a questionnaire could stop you from having an opinion or sharing it with others.

I think there are certain services in our society that should not be allowed to be profit-making. Treatment of eating disorders is one of them. Early childhood education is another. So long as someone's out to make a buck, vulnerable children will get hurt.

Is there anything we consider important enough to *not* make money on in this world?

Fiona Marcella said...

The question of the economics of healthcare is one that I am passionately interested in, but, as with most things, there probably isn't an easy answer.
Here in the UK the private service under the spotlight at the moment is prisons. Should private companies be allowed to make money (MY taxpayers money) out of the judicial system? If not, is the State going to control (and pay for) every lightbulb in the entire service?
By definition anyone paid to provide health services can be accused of making a buck out of the vulnerable. At least with you (and our) free press, they can be publicly held to account for it. Probably better than in China where the government try to control yahoo.

Unknown said...

You touched a nerve that needs to be touched, poked, excavated, irrigated, and exposed to strong sunlight.

If your post had praised them they would not have been concerned about spontaneous publicity, I'll wager.

Harriet said...

Exactly. They'd have been thrilled.