Can you trust clinical practice guidelines? Thank you, Gary Schwitzer of  HealthNewsReview.org for an excellent blog post on the BMJ (British Medical Journal) article about conflicts of interest on clinical practice panels. The BMJ article details some of the types of conflicts common on the clinical practice panels that issue treatment guidelines.

As a Minneapolis healthcare PR firm dedicated to promoting the transformation of healthcare to a patient-focused, outcomes-based model, we believe it is vitally important that engaged patients receive evidence-based, unbiased information.

Article offers suggestions on how to protect patient interest

British Medical Journal

For example, in the controversial area of PSA testing, the article notes that The American Urological Association’s best practice update in 2009 and its 2013 practice guidelines reflected potential conflicts of interest in the context of association sponsorship, committee chair conflicts and multiple panel member conflicts. The article contrasts this with the conflict-free status of the U S Preventive Services Task Force in 2012.

Who do you believe?

While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found harm from routine PSA testing and no evidence of net benefit, the American Urological Association 2009 guidelines promoted routine PSA testing. In 2013, the Association revised its guidelines to reflect a more conservative approach to PSA testing.

As noted elsewhere, studies have found troubling patterns of conflicts of interest in practice guideline panels, and or lack of full disclosure of those conflicts. Part of the answer is the new Physician Sunshine Act, which we’ve written about previously, that requires the reporting of financial payments to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

Avoiding Red Flags

The BMJ authors recommend that professional journals avoid the following red flags:

  • Sponsor(s) is a professional society that receives substantial industry funding;

  • Sponsor is a proprietary company, or is undeclared or hidden

  • Committee chair(s) have any financial conflict*

  • Multiple panel members have any financial conflict*

  • Any suggestion of committee stacking that would pre-ordain a recommendation regarding a controversial topic

  • No or limited involvement of an expert in methodology in the evaluation of evidence

  • No external review

  • No inclusion of non-physician experts/patient representative/community stakeholders

  • *Includes a panelist with either or both a financial relationship with a proprietary healthcare company and/or whose clinical practice/specialty depends on tests or interventions covered by the guideline.

Please take note, healthcare PR professionals, healthcare marketing professionals and journalists. And for full disclosure, this Minneapolis healthcare PR firm works for the parent company of an online source of unbiased medical reference and clinical recommendations. The client had nothing to do with the writing of this blog post, and I take full responsibility for its contents.

Healthcare transformation refers to the fundamental change going on in the healthcare industry, especially the ongoing transformation from a fee-for-services to an outcomes-based model. Transformation is being driven by meaningful use, value-based purchasing, accountable care organizations (ACO’s), the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and advanced clinical decision support. Summed up, these changes are about aligning incentives and using advanced technology to improve outcomes. For a Minneapolis healthcare content marketing firm, there is much to communicate about, and we’re excited to be part of this transformation.

The first step is to understand the bigger issues. As a Minneapolis industry analyst relations firm, we work closely with a number of the top research firms, including GartnerIDC and The Advisory Board. Each of these organizations has written extensively about healthcare transformation. In addition, some of the better sources of information about healthcare transformation are The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, and The Institute for Health Technology Transformation.

It’s important to follow the law-making and rule-making processes in government. As a Minneapolis government relations firm, we develop and implement effective government relations strategies. We keep clients up to speed on legislative and regulatory trends and developments, and represent our clients before Congress and Federal agencies. Snow has worked with the FDA, HHS, OMB and other agencies. Snow prepares comment letters to Federal and state agencies, meets with Congressional staff to share perspective and seek assistance, sets up meetings with policy makers, produces testimony and whitepapers, and arranges for legislation to be introduced.

Based on well grounded, current knowledge, we provide strategy development and implementation. Suppliers to the healthcare market must communicate how their products and services will help providers meet the new challenges and opportunities in healthcare. Providers must reach out to patients in new ways, emphasizing better outcomes and patient engagement.

For a Minneapolis healthcare PR firm like ourselves, we understand the need to help clients create strategies for thought leadership through content marketing, PR, SEO and SEM and other, integrated approaches. Working with our clients, we help them create original content to drive aggressive content marketing that builds recognition for our client’s solutions, products, people and perspective, while also driving improved SEO and social media.

Like many Minneapolis B2B PR firms, Snow Communications uses Google analytics, SEO strategies, and related digital marketing technologies; but we understand that content is everything. We know a good story when we see it. Maybe that comes from having been a reporter and writer for The New York Times, The Star Tribune, Radio Sweden and other news organizations. Having been an editor, I have a good idea of what editors want, and don’t want. Good B2B PR firms figure out how take a story that is not fundamentally glamorous – and often far from it, and turn it into something a publication’s subscribers want to read.

In addition, we’ve launched dozens of new companies successfully.

Content Marketing: The Gift That Kept Giving

B2B PR and Content Marketing

Zepol logo

When we launched new company Zepol, we realized right away that this was a content marketing play – even before that term was in wide use. Zepol publishes trade data – data about the movement of goods from country to country, and that data is of great interest to a lot of people at companies and other organizations.

We made successful pitches about Zepol, its rapid growth, its value to its customers and related themes. But the gift that kept giving was where we offered recognized publications the opportunity to provide Zepol trade data in their publication and on their website. This became a recurring source of promotion for Zepol long after our work with them was complete.

Please read our case study

See details in our Zepol case study.