Hitting a Nerve

Poster ads don’t belong in the clinic


In the last few months, I’ve received several posters. They’re always delivered by UPS, and come in a solid cardboard box to keep them from being crushed.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

The boxes get opened, and once I know what they are, the whole thing gets tossed in the office recycling.

I know they’re presented as helpful patient information, with some bullet lists and glossy graphics showing brains, nerve transmitters, or patients. But the basic reality is that they’re just advertisements. Like infomercials on TV, they come across as professional and interesting, but at their heart and soul are just selling something.

No thanks.

Years ago, a company sent me a poster listing the warning signs of stroke. Although it was still an advertisement, I decided to hang it up in my exam room as a sort of public service announcement. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that any patient left staring at it for more than 1-2 minutes would start to complain of at least two of the symptoms listed. It got taken down after a few days.

I have nothing against advertising. It pays for websites, television shows, sporting events, newspapers, and magazines.

But my exam room isn’t the place for it. Patients are bombarded with direct-to-consumer advertising for many drugs in every media outlet. The doctor’s discussion room shouldn’t be one of the them.

The meeting between me and a patient should be frank, honest assessments about what should be done and what, specifically, is best for their individual case. I don’t need marketing for a drug that may or may not be appropriate, or easily covered by insurance, staring back at them.

It’s a thin line. Obviously, magazines out in my lobby are full of pharmaceutical ads, and that doesn’t bother me. But once a patient crosses the line into my consultation area it should just be between me and them.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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