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Trisha Torrey

Johns Hopkins Survey: True Interest? Data Mining? or Shameless Marketing?

By March 17, 2009

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(Note: Find an update to this post entitled Johns Hopkins White Papers - Readers' Complaints and Taking Action - February 2011.)

The Johns Hopkins 2009 Health America Survey arrived in my mailbox. It seems I am among the esteemed "select group" of Americans being asked for my "insight regarding vital health care issues."

Uh-huh. I'm just as esteemed as every other person who is over a certain age who could be found on the mailing list they purchased.

It asks me things like whether I think access to healthcare has improved or worsened over the past 10 years and whether the quality of healthcare has improved or worsened over the past 10 years.

Gee. Why don't they ask me whether I think the grass has grown over the past 10 years?

The great majority of the "survey" is devoted to medical conditions I may be concerned with and OH! by the way! They just happen to have 15 white papers they will send me to review -- and they won't bill me the $19.95 plus shipping and handling for 30 days! And if I keep them, they will send me next year's white papers, too!

Doesn't this "survey" sound remarkably like an infomercial?

But wait! There's more!

I got wondering about the results of last year's oh-so-important Johns Hopkins Health America Survey. I wonder if people thought access to healthcare had gotten better or the quality of healthcare had improved in 2008. So I googled "Health America Survey and Johns Hopkins." Hmmm.... no results. Nada. I guess this must be the first year they have done this survey? Or. Hmmm.... maybe not?

Because then I found the little teeny tiny type that says,
"This opinion survey is being conducted by the editors of the Johns Hopkins White Papers to help determine future content and is not official research from Johns Hopkins Medicine."

Sorry Johns Hopkins. I won't be returning this information to you. I don't need any more of this transparent marketing from you and I can't be bothered returning reports. I don't want to spend money for information that is available for free, and shame on you for asking me personal questions just so you can target your marketing to me. As for the confidentiality? Another income stream from selling your data? Not on my back.

And, in all honesty, your white papers are renowned. This infomercial approach really cheapens then, in my (not so) humble opinion.

When we advocate for transparency, this is NOT what we mean.

(Note: Find an update to this post entitled Johns Hopkins White Papers - Readers' Complaints and Taking Action - February 2011.)

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March 17, 2009 at 9:23 am
(1) Anne says:

I am so glad you posted on this, Trisha. It makes me so mad when they mix marketing with the perception we already hold about actual health care services. Johns Hopkins has the clout and name to dupe us into believing we have to fill out their marketing registration card (so to speak). This is a manipulative tactic that has gone on for way too long.

March 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm
(2) danwalter says:

NEVER trust Johns Hopkins:
Adventures in Cardiology

March 22, 2009 at 9:01 am
(3) Fran says:

When I received the ad, I knew I wasn’t “all that” to Johns Hopkins, and wasn’t happy that they’d assume I’d fall for the worn out approach of false flattery. However, at first glance the information offer itself was tempting. And then the old nickel dropped. I realized the whole thing was just a glorified sales pitch. For shame! It’s hard to accept the fact that the famous, well respected Johns Hopkins would sink to this. But they did.

Thanks for this article. I feel even better now about pitching that offer into the trash basket.

April 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm
(4) Bill says:

Thanks for you comments on John Hopkins white papers. I completed the survey thinking that the white pages were free. Now I have the white pages and don’t want to pay 19.95 each plus shipping. I don’t want to pay the postage to have them returned. So I am just waiting for their phone call or letter requesting payment.

August 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm
(5) Jim says:

I just got back from my parents house, my dad is 88 and my mom is 85. They received the white papers and the bill and they are not sure why. My father is absolutely convinced that someone is spying on his Internet communications or on his mail and is trying to cheat him (he is right about that last part) and he has spiraled down in the last two weeks into a paranoid state of helplessness. I am now wondering if I can sue Johns Hopkins White Papers to help my parents pay for his mental health costs and the loss of his and my mom’s quality of life? Neither one remembers taking the survey, and has not associated it with the arrival of the papers. Shame on this supposedly fine institution for fostering such an obvious scam. I can’t wait to have my day in court with them.

August 5, 2009 at 3:29 pm
(6) Jeff Nelligan says:

To all:
This is Jeff Nelligan with the Marketing and Communications Department of Johns Hopkins Medicine. First, as uncomfortable as it is to hear, we appreciate Trisha Torrey’s piece (above) on the 2009 Health America Survey. The Survey is something about which we are exceedingly concerned. Second, to those individuals who have posted here, we offer our apologies for the confusion it has caused you and your families.
Now, here’s how how we are rectifying the matter: First, we have ordered our White Papers publisher, Medizine, to stop distributing the surveys, and that was done in mid-February. Second, Medizine has set up a toll-free line — 1-800-829-0422 — staffed with customer service representatives that will help resolve your complaints. Third, Johns Hopkins Medicine is working to clarify the relationship with Medizine in the areas of promotion, marketing, ordering, billing, and fulfillment of all Medizine products that carry the Johns Hopkins brand.
Again, we apologize for the confusion caused by these Surveys and hope we regain your trust in the future.
Jeff Nelligan
Senior Director for Strategic Communications
Johns Hopkins Medicine

November 24, 2009 at 7:08 pm
(7) Tana says:

I thought it was weird how the website was really being pushy about downloading the White Papers or “clicking here” for a free copy of a special report. If they were just interested in giving free information, I don’t think it would be set up like this. I was honestly afraid to download anything because I thought it was going to be a virus or something. It is definitely fishy here!

January 7, 2010 at 10:01 am
(8) John says:

All the FREE this and FREE that clearly leaves the unwary thinking the white papers are also free. Shame on the otherwise worthy Johns Hopkins!

April 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm
(9) B Young says:

I am really disgusted with Johns Hopkins and their scam operation. I purchased one white paper which I found truly not very informative. Then they want to keep sending them insisting this is in the language purchase and demanding payment!! It sounds like postal fraud to me. They even had the nerve to say that USPS notifies them every time a postcard is sent out and received. Hogwash or just plain lies.

November 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm
(10) George says:

I too received a letter from Johns Hopkins White Papers claiming that I had agreed to having them send me new issues of white papers for $19.95 plus shipping and handling and sales tax. It would be my responsibility, they said, to mail a form back in 30 days if I don’t want the stuff.
This appears to be an outrageous rip-off, and the people who manage this operation should be shipped off to Saudi Arabia to be beheaded in accordance with local customs. Seriously, I hate mail fraud !!!
Finally, to the physicians who stand behind these publications with their reputations on the line, shame on you!! It is bad enough that you, as specialists, extract 6-7 figure incomes out of our bankrupt health care system. But being associated with mail fraud??

January 24, 2011 at 6:12 am
(11) Gaviero says:

Wow, interesting comments way back from 2009. My mom is 78 years old. She was in a rehab center this summer and got “white papers” from Johns Hopkins. Fixed income. Didn’t want them, didn’t know she “ordered” them. I sent them back. Unopened. Unread. It cost me $26 and change. I called Johns Hopkins at the number given on their invoice for $81.75. This was in Sept. of 2010.

My mom is now in a rehab center again, and going through her mail, I find another demand for payment for the “white papers”. It’s January 2011.

I’m sorry, but I’m now wondering if Johns Hopkins is a reputable institution.

It feels and looks more like predatory marketing techniques aimed at elderly people who can ill afford these kinds of market schemes.

Shame shame shame on you.

February 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm
(12) Sandy says:

We also are having problems with receiving unwanted orders of The White Papers. We received an unsolicited, unauthorized, unrequested White Papers’ order at the beginning of January 2011 which we returned according to their 30 day return policy. We recently received a second invoice requesting payment of the paper we returned. However, interestingly the original invoice did not have a date on it but the second invoice did. According to the second invoice the purchase date is 10/04/2010 – three months before we received the paper. Is John Hopkins really that desperate to sell The White Papers that they resort to these unethical selling tactics? This definitely is shameful!

February 3, 2011 at 1:21 am
(13) Robert Tsao says:

BTW, The white papers were not published by Johns Hopkins Hospital. I am not sure if they got authorization from the university. One thing for sure, they are sending us bills for stuff we do not order. I asked them to stop sending me the white paper, took my name out from their mailing/email list & get their website revised to have OPT OUT feature.. They simply ignore all my requests..

February 4, 2011 at 11:51 am
(14) Trisha Torrey says:

Follow up: February 2011

For those of you who continue to have problems with the billing and these Johns Hopkins White Papers, we have follow up information including a new email address and a phone number you can use:

Johns Hopkins White Papers – Readers’ Complaints and Taking Action

March 24, 2012 at 8:07 am
(15) Emilio Mcauley says:

I really like and appreciate your weblog.Much many thanks. Cool.

April 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(16) Mary Ann Ludlam says:

I received a second set of Depression and Anxiety and Memory both 2012 that I did not order. I promptly returned them. I am still being billed. Last month I wrote on the bill that I had indeed returned them . Just received another bill. This is definitely appears to be a scam.

January 17, 2014 at 10:38 am
(17) Roberta says:

I, too, was ensnared in this scheme. I should have remembered that the only free cheese is in the mousetrap. It’s incomprehensible that Johns Hopkins has sulllied its reputation in such an unseemly manner.

March 8, 2014 at 11:41 pm
(18) Jane elizabeth johnson says:

I am an 85 yrold, slightly concerned about my memory, I ordered john Hopkins white papers Two month’s ago I did not receive them but surely was billed for them.
I honestly thought they were from the hospital… What a disgusting scam This is the last thing I EVER ORDER online

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