Just today, actress Rita Wilson went public with the fact that she had a double mastectomy for a rare form of breast cancer, and that she may not have done so if she had not received a second medical opinion.  It’s been reported in virtually every major news outlet and social media is on fire with conversations about second opinions.  When the spotlight shines on a celebrity health news story, it’s no surprise that the general public’s interest will also be piqued. But just how much that interest piques might surprise you. We can’t quantify water-cooler chats, but we can look at search results.

Rita Wilson Breast Cancer

 Angelina Jolie’s decision to have preventative double mastectomy, and to go public with it, created a huge uptick in public awareness and action. She had the surgery due to testing positive for BRCA gene mutation, which increased her risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

Angelina Jolie Mastectomy
Some before and after numbers from Modern Medical Marketing tell the story.

  • Wikipedia searches for BRCA testing: 30,000 the day Jolie’s story broke in the New York Times, compared to 800 searches previously. 
  • National Cancer Institute’s preventative mastectomy fact sheet had 69,000 page views that day compared to just 87 the week before. 
  • Insurance claims for BRCA tests went up by 2.5% and the trend continued. 

What did your healthcare marketing organization do?


As healthcare marketers we have a huge opportunity and responsibility to inform the public. The media often reports stories in sound bites. There’s always more to the story.  Fortunately, we have go-to resources (e.g. physician-experts, researchers, medical directors) who can tell the story while also positioning the organization as a thoughtful, credible resource for the local community and beyond.

The latest health news breast cancer hailstorm came out just a few weeks ago.  It’s estimated that as a country, we waste nearly four billion dollars annually due to unnecessary tests resulting from false/positive mammograms reads and breast cancer over diagnosis.

How might you respond? Here are five ways:

  1. Write a blog post.  Ideally, have the post bylined by an expert such as a medical director in charge of radiology, a breast cancer treatment center, or oncology. Ghost write the piece and have your expert put his or her stamp of approval on it–or at very least, get a few quotes.
  2. Include the topic in an event. If you have an upcoming health fair, lecture series or lunch and learn, include this as a hot topic.
  3. Work with the local media.  Create a press release and offer up experts to speak to the media – newspapers, radio, TV reporters – all of who may want a local angle to a national topic. Don’t wait for them to come to you – go to them! Bonus: Once a reporter trusts you a resource, they’ll likely be back for future stories.
  4. Direct-to-patient communications.  Email newsletters, brochures, as well as other patient communications are perfect places to position responses to media stories. Like news outlets, the public will be looking for more information – be the go-to resource.
  5. Social media.  Post on Facebook, Twitter and other outlets where you can quickly inform the public and local media.  Create fact sheets, FAQs, or infographics that help convey your angle on the story.

Science and medical innovations are always being reported in national and local media. As healthcare marketers, you can add substance and value to the story so your audiences can be better informed about the topic, and your organization. 

Ask a physician what she wants from a patient and she’ll say, “ an informed patient”. 

Whether you’re an insurance company, a hospital, physician group or other healthcare provider, you can be the one to help educate patients and prospects. The digital landscape allows us to be nimble and quick to respond.  To learn more, download our free whitepaper: Unlocking the Future of Healthcare Marketing

Let’s get the conversation going here. How have you responded to hot health topics and what were your results?

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