If you have not heard, former President George Bush underwent a percutaneous coronary intervention to place a stent inside a heart vessel in order to treat coronary heart disease. A common procedure globally, it has come under fire in recent years concerning over use in patients who may not receive potential benefits from the procedures. Comments surrounding the former President's care suggested he was in good health and was asymptomatic, raising the question of whether this procedure was indeed necessary. Not surprisingly, media personalities and notable medical personalities have pored over the press releases in order to offer their opinions. Find a select sampling here, here, and here.
Regardless of whether the procedure was warranted, I was left wondering how healthcare professionals feel when a celebrity patient comes through their doors. Like any situation, it presents both opportunities and risks. Is it true that all publicity is good publicity?
We at MRG have seen a number of celebrities undergo procedures recently, and each procedure entailed scrutiny of all involved. We saw Angelina Jolie undergo a double mastectomy , former vice president Dick Cheney had an LVAD placed before undergoing a full heart transplant
, and sadly, Neil Armstrong who passed away from complications following CABG surgery
. Obviously, no healthcare professional can turn a patient away. But when the spotlight is on you, your choices, and your skills, you might wish they had chosen someone else's office. Whether it's a routine procedure, or a difficult, high-risk case, just having the celebrity in your OR is going to put you under scrutiny. Every treatment decision, setback and outcome will be examined intently, both by fellow healthcare professionals familiar with similar cases, and by media personalities just handed a summary sheet by their research department.
A good outcome and a happy patient can lead to a higher professional profile and a burnished reputation for the facility. A poor outcome, or an unhappy patient, can lead to negative publicity, and jokes on late night talk shows. My guess is that not every physician or facility is jumping at the opportunity to treat these high profile patients, given the risk-reward ratio. But, I am certain there is a subset of these healthcare providers that are jumping at the opportunity to take on these cases, representing that same group of people we have all met at some point in our lives that are always on the hunt for the next challenge or opportunity.