Beyond a fax faux pas

We all know the frustrations of unsolicited outreach efforts, whether it is pre-election telephone calls, sales-pitch text messages appearing in our cellphones or spam emails. In a busy medical office, the clank-clank-churn of unwanted faxed missives filling the holding tray may be another annoyance; at least, it appears to be the case for the St. Louis Heart Center in Missouri.

Is this a strategy for pharmaceutical representatives who get turned away at the door during sales calls? Industry observers noted in the article "Prescribing Benefit, Risk to Drug Sales Reps," published in November's Cardiovascular Business, that pharmaceutical companies have decreased the number of sales visits in recent years after realizing that the practice irritated some potential clients. Many have trimmed their workforces, too.

There are many curious aspects to this case, even beyond the use of a so last-decade method to communicate. First, St. Louis Heart Center included the 40 faxes it says it received in its documentation, which suggests the center held on to the faxes. Second, one exhibited  fax included contact information for opting out of future faxes.

On a more academic note, a study published in the December issue of Health Affairs revealed interesting trends in patient perceptions of compensation offers. Researchers presented hypothetical cases of medical errors and hospital offers for redress to more than 3,000 study participants. Offers that included the maximum compensation were more likely to be turned down; those offers also included a release of claims.

Apparently, respondents questioned the motives behind the higher compensation and sign-off. This is a mindset worth minding because it may reflect deeper dynamics between patients and providers.

A faxing faux pas is one thing. Losing the trust and confidence of your patients, even theoretically, is another. In 2013, Cardiovascular Business will explore how hospitals rebuild ties after trust has been challenged. Please let us know what strategies have worked for your hospital.

Candace Stuart

Cardiovascular Business, editor