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Johns Hopkins says TV show worked well
Many people, including a lot of risk managers, thought The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore was taking a huge risk when it allowed ABC television crews extensive access to produce the groundbreaking series "Hopkins 24/7" in 2000. But the experience was overwhelmingly positive, says Gary M. Stephenson, MS, senior associate director for media relations and public affairs with Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The experience was so good that the hospital did another ABC series called "Hopkins" two years ago, Stephenson says.
"We had very little negative experiences as a result of both experiences," he says. "There was some initial criticism of one scene when a large sea turtle from the Baltimore Aquarium was CT'ed to determine why the animal was not eating. The turtle had swallowed a large ball. A few viewers thought we were diverting resources and technologies to animals when they could be better used on human patients."
Hopkins explained that the physicians did the scanning on their own time using a CT unit that was being calibrated and was not yet used for human patients. Stephenson says there was also some minor concerns voiced regarding patient privacy, but he says those concerns were largely dispelled when Hopkins explained its protocols.
Advance consent was obtained in almost all cases, he says, and all ABC employees involved in the shoot were trained in HIPAA and hospital hygiene. Certain areas were off limits to filming, such as psychiatry, because obtaining informed consent was problematic.
"Patients filmed had the right to rescind their consent after filming also, but to my knowledge, no one did," Stephenson says. "There were no lawsuits or threat of lawsuits or any other legal actions. Patients who were included enjoyed the series and welcomed the opportunity to tell their stories."
Physicians and staff had the option of opting out of the filming, and a few exercised that option.
"We think the portrayal of Hopkins and its employees was accurate and honest. This was, after all, a documentary, and what viewers saw were the realities of a major, urban-based academic medical center," Stephenson says. "We had the confidence in our staff to know if their stories were portrayed objectively, there was little chance of problems. That turned out exactly to be the case."
For any hospital considering such an arrangement, even on a much smaller scale, Stephenson says the first step is to get leadership buy-in.
"Without the full support of top administrative and clinical leadership, it's difficult to move the process forward. Secondly, make sure all protocols are clearly articulated up front by all parties and become part of a formal memorandum of understanding between the two parties," he says. "Work closely with your legal and HIPAA staff to make sure the consent forms are appropriate and that all other legal and ethical issues are addressed. Have faith in your staff. Have fun."
For more information on the Johns Hopkins experience with television access, contact:
Gary M. Stephenson, MS, Senior Associate Director, Media Relations & Public Affairs, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Telephone: (410) 955-5384. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.