Viewpoint: Kim Kardashian and the dangers of healthcare influencing

Instagram influencers may be able to advise their followers on vegan shoes and facial serums, but should refrain from giving medical advice, one emergency physician wrote in an Aug. 30 MedPage Today article. 

Adam Brown, MD, is the author of the article and the former chief impact officer of Nashville, Tenn.-based Envision Healthcare. Now, he is a professor at the Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and principal of ABIG Healthcare, the healthcare strategy and advisory firm he founded. 

Dr. Brown's article welcomes criticism of healthcare "consumerism" following an Aug. 8 Instagram post from Kim Kardashian. Donning scrubs, Ms. Kardashian posed next to an MRI machine from the startup Prenuvo and shared the photo to her 364 million followers. 

"I recently did this @prenuvo scan and had to tell you all about this life saving machine," Ms. Kardashian captioned the image. "The Prenuvo full-body scan has the ability to detect cancer and diseases such as aneurysms in its earliest stages, before symptoms arise. It was like getting a MRI for an hour with no radiation. It has really saved some of my friends lives and I just wanted to share #NotAnAd." 

The post is missing information, according to Dr. Brown. Companies like Prenuvo say their voluntary full-body scans can identify medical conditions, including early-stage cancers; however, there is not sufficient evidence to recommend them for patients without "clinical symptoms, risk factors or a family history suggesting underlying disease or serious injury," per the American College of Radiology. 

In addition, a 2019 study found that such scans can return false positives, and the radiation can slightly increase one's chances of developing cancer later in life, Dr. Brown cited. 

Healthcare influencing — like Ms. Kardashian's promotion of a full-body scan, which can cost up to $2,500 — harms the public in five ways, Dr. Brown argues: 

1. It oversimplifies the solutions to complex healthcare problems, which can lead to misinformation and misguided self-diagnosis.

2. It can interrupt the patient-physician relationship, which is reliant on trust. 

3. It can lead patients to opt for quick fixes and superficial solutions rather than the comprehensive care offered by a medical professional. 

4. It can create further fog around healthcare prices. "The cost of care transcends the simple sticker price, encompassing a myriad of variables that need careful consideration," Dr. Brown wrote. "Kardashian could not explain these intricacies in a social post."

5. Influencers, from politicians to celebrities, can sow medical misinformation on a large scale, as seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"While elective full-body scans are not immediately life threatening, we simply cannot treat healthcare innovations as trends," Dr. Brown wrote. "We must demand greater responsibility and accountability by platforms and companies using influencers to drive healthcare businesses." 

Read his full perspective here.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars