Healthcare: At a glance - Dr Foster

Why is PRWeek interested in a nursery-rhyme character?

We don't mean the doctor who went to Gloucester - we mean the company that publishes independent data about local health services and produces magazines designed to target particular groups.

Ah yes, of course. Hasn't it just appointed a new chairman?

Yes, Tim Hailstone, chief executive of The Stationery Office.

Tell me more

Dr Foster was co-founded in 2000 by former Sunday Times news editor Tim Kelsey with the aim of giving patients more information. It is privately funded but provides services to the NHS as well as commercial clients.

Why should PROs be bothered?

Because Dr Foster says it is keen on partnerships. As health service patients are being given greater choice in the way they are treated, there is increasing space for companies to promote their interests in a particular disease area, for example.

And who does PR for Dr Foster?

The de facto PR head is Julian Tyndale-Biscoe, who is marketing and primary care development manager. It has worked with Media Strategy in the past but does not have a PR agency at the moment - although it is in the process of appointing one.

How does Dr Foster operate?

It focuses on several areas, including what it calls 'health needs mapping'.

This uses a technique that combines health data with other census-based and lifestyle market research information to identify populations with expected higher levels of certain conditions.

What else does it do?

It works on clinical monitoring and benchmarking, analysing hospital episode statistics data to measure outcomes for mortality, length of stay, readmission and day-case rates to help clinicians and managers measure their performance.

How is the data verified?

Sir Brian Jarman, emeritus professor of primary care at Imperial College, directs the Dr Foster Unit there, which analyses health databases.

- Further information www.drfoster.co.uk.

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