How They Found “The Best Doctors In America” For In-Flight Magazine Ads

by SharonKurheg

Remember in-flight magazines? You hardly see them anymore. And even in today’s world of flight, when Covid is endemic, it looks as if in-flight magazines might never see the light of day again. But here’s an interesting tidbit about them!

If you ever thumbed through an in-flight magazine, you invariably went past the ads for “The Best [Plastic Surgeon/Orthopedic Surgeons/Eye Surgeon/Pain Management/Fertility/etc.] Doctor in America.” Have you ever wondered about them? I have. I always figured they were models or something and not actual doctors.

It turned out that I was wrong. Well, most of the time.

Madison Media was founded in 2002, to offer innovative, low-cost advertising programs in the airline in-flight magazines. In 2006, it launched a 1-page “The Best Doctors in New York” ad in 2 airline’s in-flight magazines. From there, they grew to several “Top Doctor” and “Best Doctor” pages that you saw in American’s, Delta’s, United’s, Southwest’s and Amtrak’s in-flight (and on-board) magazines. At their peak, their 40 pages of ads were seen by over 16 million passengers per month.

Madison Media’s website is still live but doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2020. However pre-pandemic, Madison Media said they only featured physician who have been peer-nominated and selected by the nation’s leading providers of information on the best doctors. Their sources included:

  • Castle Connolly – was a membership-based publication that said they, “help consumers find the best healthcare.” The doctors featured had been nominated by their peers. Although patients paid a fee for access to this service, “Physicians do not and cannot pay to be selected as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor.” Castle Connolly’s website has been blank since 2020.
  • Super Doctors – identifies top doctors as selected by their peers and the independent research of MSP Communications. Physicians that had been tagged as Super Doctors are able to advertise in Super Doctors publications.
  • Trusted LASIK Surgeons – their primary mission is to assist patients in finding LASIK and refractive surgeons who are the best and most trusted in the United States. They have a process to add LASIK or cataract surgeons to their list.
  • Consumers’ Checkbook – is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization. To find out who the top doctors are around the country, the organization surveyed roughly 375,000 physicians to tell them which specialists they would want to care for a loved one. The top doctors database contains the names of over 24,000 doctors who were mentioned most often in over 35 specialties. Consumers have access to the names for free.

Madison Media never went into how they determined who the “Best Doctors” turned out to be each month, but I thought it was a positive thing that although doctors could pay to advertise, none of the above resources mentioned anything about paying to be on a list. At least not where the public could see. So I thought maybe they were legit and trustworthy.

Silly me.

Then I read these:

And then I found THE article about these “best doctors” lists:

So yeah…that’s how they found “The Best Doctors in America.” Good grief! (which I originally typed as “good greed.” I’m sure The Best Psychiatrist In America would call that a Freudian slip.)

American, Delta, Southwest and other airlines have discontinued their in-flight magazines (Frontier discontinued theirs way back in 2011). United still offers Hemispheres magazine, but its online version, at least, has no ads. There’s also Inflight Magazine, also an online publication (this one available by subscription) – it has advertisements, but none for “Best Doctors”.

So I suppose if you were planning to look for an orthopedic surgeon via an in-flight magazine, you’re out of luck from here on in. Sorry not sorry.

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Christian May 24, 2020 - 7:38 pm

I loved the ProPublica article when it came out but I’ve always been pretty dubious about the ads.

Kei salmon May 25, 2020 - 2:00 am

Those are paid expensive advertisements. I knew one of them. He was one of the worst who NEEDED the advertisement

SharonKurheg May 25, 2020 - 1:52 pm

Isn’t that what we said in the post??? LOLOL!


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