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September 3, 2014

Hospital Relationships With Direct-to-Consumer Screening Companies

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Colorado School of Medicine, Colorado Springs
  • 2University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, Tulsa
  • 3American College of Physicians, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2014;312(9):891-892. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.9500

The debate over direct-to-consumer (DTC) screening companies intensified recently as Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, sent letters to 20 hospitals on June 19, 2014, urging their leadership to sever business relationships with HealthFair, a prominent DTC screening company. Public Citizen states that HealthFair’s “heavily promoted, community-wide cardiovascular health screening programs are unethical and are much more likely to do harm than good,” and they cite peer-reviewed evidence in support of their claims.1 If such claims are true, should any hospital sponsor or co-brand with DTC screening companies that allegedly sell “potentially harmful and unethical services?” (For example, sponsorship arrangements include allowing the use of a hospital's name in DTC company print or online advertising, providing or sharing a physical location where screening is performed, or both; co-branding includes promotion of a DTC screening company on a hospital's website.)