Yesterday, I reported on this blog the trouble Medtronic had experienced with and earlier batch of defibrillators due to a low-voltage capacitor problem from an outside supplier back in 2005 or 2006. The problem was identified in a relatively small number of devices and has not affected their devices' functionality, but the expected battery life of these batch of devices was discovered to be shorter than they had expected. A root cause analysis was undertaken and the capacitor issue was identified. After consulting their physician advisory panel, they elected to notify all doctors who implant their devices about the issue and provided the patients' names that they were aware of to doctors to help facilitate patient notification.
Importantly, there was not a press release.
Personally, I think this was a good thing. As of this moment, I was only able to find one reference to this advisory in once major newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. No doubt, the news will spread rapidly from there.
But it will not spread like a press release would: fired instantaneously to every news organization around the globe always looking for the next tidbit to report, especially tidbits that create lots of angst. Importantly, the piece from the Wall Street Journal did not include a hyperlink where patients would look up if their device was affected.
It has been interesting to also see who has been reading my blog post on this matter. Sitemeter is handy for that. At first, it was lots of hits from medtronic.com, but not too soon thereafter came guidant.com, bostonscientific.com, and the like.
There is no question that these device manufacturers are fierce competitors. As such, let's just say they like to keep things relatively private between themselves. But these device manufacturers may also use the same outside vendors for supplies, including low-voltage capacitors in their circuitry and maybe, just maybe, by getting the information out about one manufacturer's design problem, others will check their old devices as well.
So while blogs have been controvertial for their ability to spread news, good or bad, at lightning speed, the fact that they don't appear at first on the Nightly News or front page of major newspapers might just be a good thing while effectively communicating the issues to our patients (and other interested parties) without terrorizing the masses.