SPONSORSHIP: Health Care Deals with Sports Teams Draw Fire
The growing number of health care firms promoting themselves through affiliation with professional sports teams is fueling "distress" among industry watchers, the Boston Globe reports. Critics charge that teams may "put money ahead of competence" in choosing doctors, and that companies are selling "their services in a way that seems to trivialize their mission of saving lives."
Their Biggest Fans
The Globe takes a look at the San Francisco Giants' $15 million endorsement deal with Catholic Healthcare West, in which the Giants' new stadium, Pac Bell Park, will house a 6,200 square foot clinic staffed by CHW. The clinic will provide rehabilitation and other services "to nearby homes and businesses, as well as to the Giants." For the privilege of close affiliation, advertising rights and promotion on the Giants' Web site, CHW will pay the team $15 million over 10 years. CHW's Robert Polonzi said "it would take us 10 years to generate the kind of awareness we'll get with this relationship." In Boston, New England Baptist Medical Center just completed a $32.5 million training center that the Celtics will use for 12 years. In exchange, Baptist will get "the reflected glory of letting its paying customers work out near the Celtics, and of having its doctors be the team's doctors." There is no shortage of additional examples: 18 of 27 National Hockey League teams have "some sort of sponsorship arrangement with a health care company," the Globe reports.
New York Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek said, "It's very common now for doctors to pay to be the team doctor, and they're like sponsors of the team. That's where the conflict comes in. They're not just there because they're the best doctor." Dr. William Straw, the Giants' doctor for 13 years until last year when the CHW deal went through, asked, "If the doctors don't give good care would the team look the other way?" Straw says his group refused an offer from the Giants that CHW ultimately accepted. The Association of Professional Team Physicians' Marc Allen said that his organization's "official position" is to discourage teams from choosing doctors for reasons other than quality. But Allen acknowledged that "the fact is that as business owners, [teams] do have competing interests." Team owners dismiss the potential conflicts. Dan Connell, SVP for marketing of the Jacksonville Jaguars, said, "I can assure you that at no time have or will the Jacksonville Jaguars compromise getting and providing the best health care for our players or our staff." (Tye, 4/26).