American Osteopathic Association Slams Pathologists and Laboratories

| February 26, 2016

According to its website, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), it has launched a new campaign entitled “Brand Awareness Campaign” which it claims is “taking osteopathic medicine to a wider audience with a new brand awareness campaign, launched at OMED 2015 in Orlando on Oct. 17. Our objectives were to sharpen the definition of osteopathic medicine in a way that consumers understand and connect with while increasing awareness of osteopathic medicine and the DO degree.

The campaign features real DOs in both print and video ads, talking about what makes osteopathic medicine unique—our empathetic, whole-person approach to care. It targets consumers when and where they’re looking for information about health and wellness, promoting the DO difference and directing potential patients to find their DO.”

A colleague tipped me off to this story, after, get this, seeing it in People magazine.

The campaign, includes, among other messages, that “Labs don’t care. I DO.” and “The lab does not diagnose a person. I DO.”

finleybrooke-ad-web The AOA website goes on to claim “The first phase of the campaign launched at OMED and will run through Spring 2016. You’ll start to see print ads in prominent magazines, including Essence, Health, Yoga Journal, O Magazine, People, and Runner’s World, in mid-November. Digital content, such as banner ads and 30-second videos, are already appearing on prominent health-focused websites like MayoClinic.org, WebMD.com, and Prevention.com.

Together, the campaign ads aim to raise awareness by reaching active health seekers when and where they’re looking for health information. They will drive people to our new consumer website, DoctorsThatDO.org, and the new “Find Your DO” tool to help bring new patients into your waiting rooms. Make sure they can find you by updating your profile information online. This is just the first phase of a multi-year campaign. Out-of-home strategies and ways affiliate organizations can get involved are part of future plans.”

I think I have learned a few things about marketing over the years being a web publisher and also happen to know a few things about osteopathic medicine having gone to a college with an osteopathic medical school (Michigan State University). At the time, Michigan State was the only university to have three medical schools on the same campus – allopathic, osteopathic and veterinary. The MD and DO students shared the gross anatomy where MSU had undergraduate students prosect cadavers for teaching for the medical students to lay out superficial, intermediate and deep dissections of specific areas and organs.  It allowed me to do some really neat dissections of the head and neck and arms and abdomen that quite frankly there was not time for in my own medical school gross anatomy lab.  There was always healthy banter and competition among the MD and DO students.  The halls of the medical school were lined with messages like “DOCTOR begins with DO”. The DO students would brag they actually require more training with classes in some manual manipulation techniques. I am not sure how many DOs perform these in their practice.  If memory serves from my college days, the movement and eventual degree and accreditation processes was started by a Dr. Still in Kirksville, Missouri who I believe was an MD and a DO. The philosophy of osteopathic medicine as I recall from my days in Fee Hall at Michigan State was in part, treating the patient as a “whole” rather than “the sum of its parts” relegated to more specialty care for allopathic physicians, treating specific symptoms and systems.  While historically many DOs would be what are now called “primary care physicians” – internists, pediatricians, family practioners and ob-gyns, I think these lines are blurred now. There are surgeons and anesthesiologists and pathologists who are DOs.  One of the best pathologists/morphologists/lab administrators I ever worked with is a DO who attended the osteopathy school in Kirksville.  I am sure I have been treated by DOs, particularly in emergency rooms in Michigan. How I ended up in those emergency rooms are stories for another post…

So what exactly are the leaders and marketing people thinking at the American Osteopathic Association? 

I find these messages degrading and insulting to pathologists and laboratorians everywhere.

The AOA’s message, “The lab does not diagnose a person” goes against everything we do in pathology and laboratory medicine.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 5.11.00 PMWhat is it the AOA thinks the laboratory actually does? Lab tests don’t care? Who is this message for to help who? Does the AOA want to promote its physicians, medical students and teaching institutions by slamming pathologists and laboratories? Including some pathologists who may be card carrying members of the AOA?

So now patients can thumb through their People or O Magazine or Essence or Yoga Journal and see full page ads that read “The lab does not diagnose a person. I DO.”

What then does the lab do AOA? What do pathologists, including DO pathologists do? The campaign apparently will be promoted on billboards and video campaigns which are up on their website.

I can’t wait to drive down the highway and see a billboard that says “The lab does not diagnose a person.” And then see a mile later a larger College of American Pathologists (CAP) billboard that reads “Every number is a life (TM)” or “Meet Health Care’s Secret Weapon” promoting pathology and laboratory medicine but I don’t think this is going to happen.  This apparently has been going on for several months and as of this writing I didn’t see anything on the CAP website or in any communications with its members.  I guess we will just see the billboards for “Lab tests don’t care”.

If this is the message our own professional organizations, our colleagues, are promoting, what are we as pathologists to do when it comes to our own stature and recognition with hospital administrators, clients, patients, and okay, payers?

We as pathologists need to be better advocates for ourselves and properly inform the the patient public as consumers of our services that we have a critical mission in their care, safety & quality assurance of their healthcare.

Or we can just start our own campaign provided by one friend who thought,

DOn’t go to a osteopath.

I hope the CAP has a response to this and would welcome any comments from the American Osteopathic Association.

As a footnote, it is possible that charts don’t empathize and machines don’t listen as the AOA is messaging but I will let software and biomedical engineers address these issues but I am not sure the charts or machines care as much as labs do.

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Category: Advocacy, Patient Advocacy

Comments (12)

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  1. George Leonard says:

    It strikes me as particularly tone deaf and out of touch with their constituency. In my residency program of 11 residents 8 are DOs.

  2. Rick McEvoy says:

    While DO physicians care for and help many people in our society, and in our hospital setting have continually been outstanding in their roles as physician and healer, their national organization has chosen a tactic of extreme vitriol and antagonism. I ask that all DO physicians stand up against this campaign of “I DO”. If any change in medicine has been sustained, it is that the payors/insurance companies/etc, would like for us to engage in damaging infighting. Please, DO physicians, stand up and recognize that ALL physicians are vital to the patient experience.

  3. Robert J. Corona DO, MBA, FCAP, FASCP says:

    This ad is unfortunate and I think the marketing team that did this did a great disservice to DO’s and pathologists. I hope the AOA does the right thing and pulls the ad (stop the bleeding). Then they need to figure out the fundamentals of building a brand that has value. My apologies to all my pathology colleagues. The DOs managing lab tests DO care!

  4. Kayleigh McDorman, MLS(ASCP)cm says:

    I understand personally the ‘humanistic angle’ they were going for with these ads. Lab TESTS don’t care – as they’re not able to do such a thing, they’re just tests. The lab doesn’t diagnose – except for pathologists, legally we don’t. It’s outside our (MT/MLS/MLT) scope of practice to diagnose or order tests ourselves, however 70-80% of medical decisions come from our accurate and precise results and we are involved in patient care via communication with the providers (such as suggesting a test be ordered based on our experience and what we see of the clinical picture, which is a different angle than the provider). Whether intentional or not, the campaign slighted everyone involved with lab tests (and other allied health professions).

    The AOA responded on Facebook to the outcry from medical technologists/technicians, but all they did was thank us for our concern and explain the intent of their campaign, saying they had run it by professionals to ensure that it wouldn’t offend. Obviously not enough. The way to fix this is not to thank people for our concerns or explain their INTENT of the campaign, as we well know. The way to fix it is to withdraw it immediately, apologize for the misunderstanding, and re-work it in a way that gets their point about caring DOs across while NOT implying that the laboratory is not concerned with the care and diagnosis of a patient (as well as the other professions mentioned and slighted in the campaign).

    The lack of a response from CAP, ASCP, AMT, etcetera, in this is just yet another sign of the lack of cohesiveness in the laboratory. We can’t even stand up for ourselves because the numerous bodies that certify and accredit us are at all over the place. It’s sad.

  5. Maria L. Evans, M.D. says:

    Well, and as the pathologist who has served Kirksville, MO, home of Osteopathic Medicine, for 16 years, I’m finding this REEEEEEALY awkward…*sigh*

  6. Dr. Kevin D.O. says:

    As a DO who is training in Psychiatry I need to say that I appreciate the pathologists and radiologists of the world. The number of times I have spoken with radiologists to discuss what certain imaging means in regards to dementia has been numerous and helped to lead me down different treatment paths. The notion that the psychiatrist or family doctor is more important or caring than specialists is ludicrous. We are a team and we all want the best for our patients.

  7. Erica Waddington, DO says:

    I’m really not sure what the AOA was trying to accomplish with this ad – but I have a feeling it was a non physician marketing team. I find it hard to believe a physician would say anything like that. Even though this is my parent organization – I hope all those offended realize that not all DOs agree with their advertising.

  8. Janet Wright says:

    Love these comments but he’s right there should be more from our own entity. The bottom line is the lab & allied health is who tells the doctor what’s really wrong with their patients because up to then, ” it’s only an educated guess !!”

  9. SGR says:

    I will say this…I anticipate that DO’s don’t misunderstand and abuse pathologists and radiologists at any greater frequency than MD’s. However it’s a sad statement when ANY specialty thinks that they are better than another or takes advantage of them. You don’t lift yourself up by trying to push others down. It merely let’s people see your true poor character. I suggest that pathologists and laboratorians start using the hashtag #LabsDiagnose and #LabsCare. (If I were the president of the AOA, I would FIRE the ad agency and the people in the AOA that approved such rude ads).

  10. Dr. D.O. Pathologist says:

    I have to say that as a pathologist, if it weren’t for my lab, the patients wouldn’t have a diagnosis. There are certain things that the lab does diagnose and that a pathologist does diagnose. If it weren’t for us, cancer would be detected when to late. The AOA is wrong and should retract this offensive campaign.

  11. David Kimbrough says:

    I would like to know how DO’s intend to diagnose patients without lab test. Many cannot accurately diagnose strep throat without sending a specimen to the lab for confirmation.

  12. Mark Shuldberg says:

    As a DO pathologist and former MT, I find this very embarrassing. Although lab tests cannot “care”, the people performing those tests do. This campaign insinuates that labs do not care for patients, which is incorrect. This is exactly why the AOA doesn’t receive any money from me.