Hedrick Smith PBS Series Does a Complete Workup on Health Care

From 1998 to 2001, Spartanburg, S.C.-based Hedrick Smith Productions, headed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith, produced two PBS programs examining managed care and other major health care issues. They also conducted an outreach campaign in connection with the programs.

Key Results

  • Critical Condition with Hedrick Smith, a three-hour documentary which aired on October 18, 2000, explored four issues:
    • Medical errors and medical quality.
    • Care of the chronically ill.
    • The promise and experience of managed care.
    • The problems of the uninsured.
  • Almost 300 PBS stations carried the program, and some 5.3 million viewers watched all or part of it, according to Nielsen Media Research.
  • To augment the documentary, Hedrick Smith Productions and South Carolina Educational Television conducted an educational outreach campaign, which included:
    • Mini-grants to 13 regional PBS stations to produce local programs linked to the national broadcast.
    • Partnerships with national organizations.
    • The creation of a Patient Advocacy kit.
    • A program website, which attracted over one million users in the first month after the broadcast.
  • Smith also hosted a live webcast symposium on health care issues at the National Press Club two days before the Critical Condition broadcast.
  • A one-hour companion program, Dr. Solomon's Dilemma, focused on the ethical challenges facing physicians trying to balance the competing demands of cost control and providing appropriate care under managed care; it aired as part of the Frontline series on April 9, 2000, and was repeated the night after Critical Condition appeared.