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Hospital Marketers Use Video and 3D Animations to Strengthen Patient-Physician Bonds

Since Dr. Oz first appeared on Oprah in 2004, the phrase "I wish Dr. Oz was my doctor" has been blogged, Tweeted, and shared on Facebook by fans who have come to trust him as a medical authority.

People who have never been in an exam room with the celebrity doc have praised his expertise, his bedside manner and his teaching abilities. How does a doctor establish this kind of credibility through a screen and with people he has never met?

The massive reach of television and computer screens alone plays the biggest part in the making of Oz as an internationally recognized medical expert. But Oz builds on that authority through the use of effective communication tools, such as medical animations of the procedures and conditions he discusses. And hospitals and medical practices around the country are tapping into that formula to position their own physicians as local and regional experts.

In an episode of The Dr. Oz show earlier this year, Oz used 3D animation produced by Nucleus Medical Media to demonstrate how a bladder normally empties. In another episode this year, 3D animation helped Oz explain how digestion can lead to gas and bloating. Pointing out digestive enzymes and food molecules in the small intestine as they floated across the screen, Oz addressed the audience in his signature style – as if they were a classroom full of students. "Does that all make sense?" he asked, the live audience all nodding their heads.

Visual communication tools don't simply help clarify a doctor's explanation for a patient; they "deepen the bond between them," according to research published in the British Medical Journal. A close doctor-patient relationship, the research showed, leads to increased patient satisfaction and fewer malpractice suits1.

Hospital marketing professionals have found that establishing closer doctor-patient relationships should begin at the point where many patients first encounter their physicians: the Internet. By incorporating medical animations into videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and the hospital's website, marketers educate thousands of existing and potential patients while promoting the hospital's staff as local, regional or national authorities on the care and services they provide.

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital takes this approach with its YouTube channel where patients can watch a broadcast quality video about angioplasty featuring interviews and footage of the cardiothoracic team combined with detailed 3D animations on the procedure. So far, the video has been watched nearly 40,000 times, and is the top-ranked video on their channel.

Brian Mulligan, Assistant Vice President of Public Relations for North Shore-LIJ, believes the videos strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and the credibility of the health care facility. "We use our videos to educate and show our expertise. We want to make people aware of the quality we provide and what a specific procedure is designed to do. Patients are really partners with physicians in all aspects of their care. Education makes them better informed and makes that partnership stronger. When we are the provider of that information, it reflects positively on us," he said.

Detroit Medical Center also uses 3D animation in a number of videos about procedures offered by the hospital, including an animation of a knee surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. The hospital's marketing department intends for the videos to establish the facility as an authority in the services it provides.

"Beyond our primary goal of education," said Ken Bearden, director of integrated marketing communications for the hospital, "we hope providing these videos will encourage potential patients, both locally and across the nation, to recognize Detroit Medical Center as a destination for specialty care."

1 BMJ. 2003 September 27; 327(7417): 745–748.

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