quot;ER' episode, despite the badges. * King used his accident Those savvy marketers at GE Medical Systems saw an opportunity for cross-pollination with their sexier brethren at NBC and grabbed it.
Last month, GE Medical issued a news release heralding the debut of a new medical technology on "ER," broadcast by its sister company. The episode would provide a sneak preview of a "new, life-saving medical technology for diagnosing and treating heart and vascular diseases," the statement promised. The technology, GE's Innova 3100, allows physicians to see the vessels and anatomy of the heart as well as peripheral vessels all the way to the fingertips. "With Innova 3100, hospitals can expand their services, grow their procedure volume, and offer more patients minimally invasive treatment options with a single system," according to a follow-up news release last week. It lists between $1.2 million and $1.6 million, depending on configuration and customer needs.
That would have been hard for the lay viewer to pick up from the episode. As the "ER" characters scrambled to save the life of a worker who collapsed, there was no mention of the star piece of medical equipment in the operating room. Corporately, GE did play a featured albeit silent role, as every physician and nurse crowded around the table for the procedure was inexplicably sporting a bright blue shield around their necks with the GE cursive logo plainly in sight. Britt Zarling, a Medical Systems spokeswoman, says the actors playing cardiologists on the episode were purportedly using the Innova 3100 to create images of the patient's heart vessels and to facilitate the placement of a stent to treat his heart attack.
Lest anyone think there was any favoritism at play, GE competed for its featured role just like any medical company would, according to Zarling. "We were contacted by Warner Bros. (the producers of the show) through a standard product support request. GE was not the only company considered but offered the best solution for the scene," Zarling says. GE loaned the Innova 3100 system and accessories to Warner Bros. and managed the shipping, installation and technical support to the producers, she says. Otherwise, GE paid no fee for the publicity.
Heeeeeere's the doctor!
So even for TV this is a little weird: ABC is devoting tremendous resources to a 13-week horror series about a fictional hospital in Lewiston, Maine, where there are plenty of doctors but almost no patients and spectral figures such as a long-dead girl and an anteater-type animal appear with regularity. Previous to the debut of "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital" last week, ABC ran a fictional documentary about the hospital. It has also posted an ersatz Web site, kingdomhospitalofmaine.com, for the facility, which is eerily devoid of content. A book by King, The Journals of Eleanor Druse, about one of the main characters, has been published by Hyperion Books, which like ABC is part of the Disney Corp.
In a review, the New York Times describes the series as "something like `The Shining' with CAT scans."
The main character has been hit by a car on a lonely stretch of a Maine road, just as best-selling author King was in real life in 1999. Like King, the character spends a great deal of time recovering in the hospital, but unlike his creator, the fictional character can't speak, and he witnesses unspeakable things. It seems that an 1869 fire destroyed the Gates Falls Mill in Lewiston, killing 200 people, including many child laborers, and Kingdom Hospital was built on the site.
King spent much of his recovery at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. The series was actually filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"We provided security for (King) when he was" a patient at Central Maine, says Lewiston Police Chief William Welch. His department also provided patches for the uniforms of police on the show.
"I think it's all in good fun," says Phil Nadeau, Lewiston's assistant city administrator, adding that he has no worries that Lewiston could look bad because its hospital is described as evil.
Not quite deja vu all over again
Outliers has heard that the world moves at cyberspeed, but Tenet Healthcare Corp.'s Web site is so fast, it apparently knows what's going on at the company before its corporate communications office does. An automated e-mail that showed up in our in-box on Feb. 25: "A new press release, updated on 2/25, is available on TenetHealth.com. Tenet announces major restructuring of operations."
Once we calmed down ("Another major restructuring?"), we asked Tenet whether there was a change to the Jan. 28 announcement that the company plans to sell 27 hospitals. Spokesman Steven Campanini said it was an e-mail glitch, and another e-mail went out later confirming that.
So you can imagine how surprised Outliers was on the morning of Feb. 27 to see a securities filing that amended the Jan. 28 news release. There really was an update, and the Web site knew first.
The problem, Campanini explained last week, was that some Tenet officials noticed that there was a discrepancy in the original release related to the bed counts listed for the hospitals that Tenet is selling and those that it is keeping. The release was in the process of being updated, just as the securities filing was being prepared, but that information hadn't made its way to corporate communications, certainly not to Campanini, he says. The e-mail alert went out because Tenet's Web vendor was working on the alert system, which is still on the fritz.
"It was a confluence of a couple of errors," Campanini says, "some that are human and some that are computer-generated."