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USA hospitals' latest PR concern: The Netflix documentary

After the $261 million verdict against Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, health system public relations departments have a new concern: unwillingly becoming the subject of a streaming service documentary.

Released on Netflix in June, "Take Care of Maya" tells the story of Maya Kowalski, whose family brought her to the St. Petersburg, Fla., hospital's emergency department in 2016 with chronic pain. After physicians suspected child abuse, the then-10-year-old was kept there apart from her loved ones for nearly three months, during which time her mother killed herself.

Millions of viewers watched the documentary, which detailed the family's then-unsuccessful attempt to sue the hospital. In November, a Florida jury awarded the Kowalskis the nine-figure sum for damages on counts including medical negligence and false imprisonment.

"The level of global exposure and awareness of this case helped drive the interest, engagement and discussions in the community," Karen Freberg, PhD, professor of strategic communication at University of Louisville (Ky.), told Becker's. "This is a situation where hospitals across the board must evaluate their crisis communication plans from this experience and see how they would address this situation if it happened to them."

She said any reputation-fixing lessons for this case, then, will come not from hospitals that have lost big lawsuits, but from companies that have been the subject of unflattering documentaries.

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Source: Becker's Hospital Review, 7 December 2023


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