The Maddening Way That TV Docs Affect Your Practice

Shelly Reese


September 18, 2014

In This Article

Doctors Should Talk Back to the TV

While doctors may find effective ways to talk with individual patients about what they hear on television, Steven Miles, MD, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, says that they need to be equally ready to engage the media as well.

Individual doctors may not have much sway over entertainment programming—although one medical student has petitioned the American Medical Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York (where Dr. Oz is licensed) to implement policies policing TV doctors' claims—but they can comment on media coverage, says Gary Schwitzer, publisher of Health News Review, a website that critiques coverage of healthcare news stories.

Schwitzer notes that news organizations sometimes broadcast stories about breakthrough discoveries without highlighting significant caveats, allow physician correspondents to report on institutions with whom they have ties, or oversimplify stories to make them more interesting but less nuanced.

In today's social media-driven environment, doctors need to extend their patient-education responsibilities beyond the confines of the exam room, Dr. Miles says, and reach out to the media to clarify medical science.

"Many docs hate the press," he says. "They don't want to go there. But the problem is that if the doctors won't engage the press, the press will go to the people who will talk, and the promotional voices will get undue attention and placement."

Approaching the media may seem like a daunting task, but Schwitzer says that physicians, by dint of their training and expertise, are better equipped than other groups or individuals to effect change. "Whether it is your local TV newscast or a network that runs a piece that makes your skin crawl, you need to step in," he says. "Why not press your professional organization to consider unifying and making an objection to some of these media practices? If it's worth getting bent out of shape about, take action."


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