How should hospitals ask patients for donations?

July 21, 2020

ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- As many hospitals and health centers face dramatic drops in revenue from ramping down services during the coronavirus pandemic, donations from grateful patients and philanthropists become more important than ever.

A new study looks for the first time at patients' views of hospital fundraising, including legally allowable practices that encourage physicians to work with their hospital's fundraising professionals.

"Fundraising is essential. We cannot abandon philanthropy for hospitals and health systems, especially in the current environment. But we need to learn how best to do this both effectively and ethically," says Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new paper published in JAMA.

The paper is the first to ask groups of patients about their attitudes toward hospital fundraising.

Researchers surveyed 513 members of a U.S. national survey panel, reflective of the general population. Participants were asked how they felt about common strategies hospitals use to identify, solicit and thank donors. These practices are all legally allowed.

Just under half of the responses endorsed doctors giving patient names to hospital fundraising staff after asking a patient's permission, and 9% said it was OK without asking permission. While 80% said doctors could talk to patients about donating if the patient brought it up, 14% said it was acceptable if the patient had not brought it up.

Wealth screening, in which fundraising staff use publicly available data to identify patients who might be capable of large donations, was endorsed by 10% of respondents.

"These policies were made with the best intent to facilitate fundraising for hospitals and health care institutions. We don't want to hamstring this as the money is used to the benefit of society as a whole," Jagsi says. "But I think it's also important to understand public perspectives toward these practices. We found that certain specific practices cause a lot of people concerns, and maybe those should be avoided."

The survey also assessed how hospitals could show thanks to those who make large donations. Half said it was acceptable to provide nicer hospital rooms, a quarter endorsed expedited appointments and 20% said it was OK to provide doctors' cell phone numbers.

"As a practicing physician asked to engage my patients around philanthropy, it's occurred to me that this could be a potential conflict of interest," Jagsi says. "I want guidance to navigate this, to understand what I should do to encourage philanthropy but also to protect my patients and maintain their trust."

The authors suggest additional research is needed to further understand the attitudes and preferences of patients and the general public. Jagsi says she hopes this work helps inform future conversations about policy so that hospital fundraising efforts can continue in ways that are both effective and ethical.

"Especially in the midst of a pandemic, we've discovered how vulnerable health systems are. Now perhaps more than ever it's incredibly important for development and philanthropy to thrive. We want to help development professionals continue doing their important work in ways that the public views as ethically appropriate," Jagsi says.
Additional authors: Kent A. Griffith, Joseph A. Carrese, Megan Collins, Audiey C. Kao, Sara Konrath, Stacey A. Tovino, Jane L. Wheeler, Scott M. Wright

Funding: Greenwall Foundation

Disclosure: None

Reference: JAMA, doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.9442, published July 21, 2020

Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to