Anatomy of a major media story
Did you ever stop and wonder what happens when a famous name or face hits up against a medical crisis and the media rushes to fill in the blanks?
Let's just say things can get as frenzied in the communications office as in the emergency room. Thankfully, there's a lot less riding on the performance of the PR person!
Case in point? The anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Requests for interviews with sports medicine specialists started coming in almost immediately on Sunday afternoon. BIDMC, like every major hospital, has someone on call 24-7 to deal with media calls -- usually looking for conditions of people injured in automobile accidents.
In this case, we found Arun Ramapppa. MD, our director of sports medicine was available to talk to the media that night. And he was also available (in between surgical cases) the next day as the pace of inquiries picked up.
It's always a challenge to be helpful in cases like this. Federal privacy laws protect patients and medical ethics require that physicians speak only in general terms about a condition and what the patient may be facing.
That dynamic was really in play earlier this year when Sen. Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with brain cancer. With media satellite trucks parked out en masse outside the hospital where he was being treated (requiring the PR staff to feed hungry reporters!) the calls to BIDMC and other hospitals came fast and furious.
That can pose a problem even when the patient is not in our care. The same privacy protections that cover the celebrity patient apply to patients in waiting rooms and cafeterias.
Fortunately, the media is not usually as it is portrayed in movies. Instead they are respectful of rules and regulations -- and people here for health issues that can be every bit as trying for them as the problems faced by the celebrities.
So keep this in mind the next time you see extended reporting on a complicated medical problem. And maybe offer a slight, or so slight, nod of appreciation to the people behind the scenes who help to keep you informed.