Questions arise over Ketchum's health IT contract

ProPublica is questioning an up to $25 million government contract that went to Ketchum for a health IT campaign. The Recovery Act contract was awarded at the end of March.

ProPublica is questioning an up to $25 million government contract that went to Ketchum for a health IT campaign. The Recovery Act contract was awarded at the end of March.

The Department of Health and Human Services  (HHS) posted a notification about hiring a PR firm in January as part of an effort to educate consumers, patients, and healthcare providers about personal health technology, including electronic medical records.

The investigative news outlet raises questions about the choice of Ketchum because of the firm's previous controversial work with HHS on video news releases and its involvement in hiring Armstrong Williams to promote No Child Left Behind.

From ProPublica:

President Obama's push for electronic medical records has faced resistance from those who question whether health information technology systems can protect patient privacy. So last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services hired a public relations firm to try to win consumer trust.

The irony? The firm chosen for the job — Ketchum Inc. — was hip-deep in controversy a few years ago for producing a series of fake TV news stories that violated a federal ban on propaganda. The company also drew fire for channeling taxpayer funds to a conservative pundit to promote the Bush administration's education policies.

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