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A Dangerous Distortion: Verizon’s Foray into Emergency Medical Services

There’s always been difference between “truth” and “marketing truth,” the former being the more stringent of the two.  The daily bombardment of media messaging plus occasional advertising extravaganzas (hello, Super Bowl!) has desensitized us to where consumers don’t mind the fine print that says “Do not try this at home,” “Professional driver on a closed course,” or “Screen images simulated.”  Many people appreciate that Minority Report was released before screens could be controlled with fingertips; and the Tricorder has taken decades to jump from Star Trek to the X Prize.

“Marketing truth” turns irresponsible when it opens up false expectations  – that is, when reality is conflated to the point that consumers can no longer distinguish between what is real and what “may be coming soon.”  Great, emotionally affective commercials can do that.  But emergencies – those critical moments when we feel life’s fragility  – are not when we should have to stop and ask “Can they really do that?”  This is precisely the burden presented by a variety of recent ads featuring Fire and EMS professionals, the most dangerous of which is produced by Verizon.  Verizon’s spot risks making the public think that EMS providers and firefighters currently have access to more advanced technology in the field than, by and large, they do.  The advertisement is disingenuous, which certain important facts flubbed for dramatic effect.  But that happens in the marketing world everyday—why should it be any different in the case of emergency medical services or health information technology?

Quite simply, because to do so risks inculcating in the public a false sense of comfort with the state of EMS technology today; and moreover—to those among us whom seek to bring long-overdue innovations to the industry—it risks the public asking, “Doesn’t this already exist?  We saw it on television, after all.”

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