From Digestive Disease Week in New Orleans, LA:
Never underestimate the power of celebrity. Today at Digestive Disease Week, I heard a presentation that reported on the first year of activity for a Web site called sedationfacts.org. The Web site’s goal is to educate clinicians and the public by providing the latest evidence-based data on endoscopic sedation. The site is a joint effort of several organizations: American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, American Gastrointestinal Association Institute, American College of Gastroenterology, and Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc.
Basically, the news is great. The site is averaging 5,000 visits per month. But Dr. Jenifer Lightdale of Children’s Hospital Boston, who presented the findings, noted that visitors to the site also include individuals who want to know about the sedation medications themselves. In particular, the Web site traffic report showed a huge spike in July 2009, the month after Michael Jackson’s death, when even my mom learned how to pronounce propofol.
Obviously, some of those visitors weren’t googling “propofol” because they were interested in endoscopic sedation, but Dr. Lightdale’s data showed that visitors to the Web site were clicking on an average of 3.3 pages per visit. So, thanks to star power, some of these chance visitors might end up learning something before they click away.
If a dramatic celebrity death ends up teaching someone something about endoscopic sedation, maybe that will make the difference between that person going for a screening colonoscopy that might identify cancer, vs. skipping the appointment because he or she is afraid of the procedure or its side effects. I heard several doctors, in presentations and in comments, note that fear remains one of the key barriers to getting patients to come in for screening colonoscopies.
Alternatively, perhaps we are due for another celebrity colonoscopy. It has been quite a while since Katie Couric showed off her colon on national TV. Harry Smith did his personal sequel to Katie’s Colon earlier this year, but maybe the public would pay more attention to someone with more sex appeal. Brad Pitt, are you listening?
–Heidi Splete (on twitter @hsplete)