Hospitals are offering free hernia screenings, but do patients need them?

Some hospitals are trying a curious new tactic to attract patients: free hernia screenings.

One Illinois hospital raffled off tickets for a smart speaker to entice people to get their abdomens checked by a surgeon, while an Indiana hospital offered a chance to win dinner at a chophouse.

Announcements for screening events in Colorado and Maryland warned about “life-threatening” complications that could arise if hernias are left untreated. And hospitals in Georgia and California included a chance to “test-drive” a surgical robot.

Hospitals say such screenings provide valuable education about treatment options for the common medical condition, in which part of the intestine protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall.

But no research has been done on hernia screenings, and some experts worry that these outreach efforts — some of which showcase da Vinci robotic surgery devices — could lead people to get potentially harmful operations they don’t need.