Creative Use of Video Can Drive Patient Engagement 2

Photo from

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According to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, 78 percent of patients don’t understand hospital discharge instructions. Another large study of more than 2500 patients found that 42 percent misunderstood directions for taking medications on an empty stomach, 25 percent misunderstood the scheduling of their next appointment, and nearly 60 percent were unable to read and understand a typical informed consent document. (Source: Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management)

It seems as though there is a real disconnect between what clinicians are saying to patients and what patients are hearing. So, what can be done to bridge the gap? Some healthcare professionals have begun using video to simply and clarify complex medical concepts.

Visualizing Patient Satisfaction

In a recent blog post on, Dr. Shaun Gogarty shares some of the success he has experienced when presenting medical information to patients through pictures and video.  The idea came about when Dr. Gogarty, who had always prided himself on what he thought were excellent patient engagement skills, was shocked to see less than stellar results from his patient satisfaction survey:

“No one really wants to be graded by relative strangers, and I was no different, but seeing low scores for something I had tried to do well, made me think about how to do better.”

He decided to try using a “picture book” to help explain common emergency room diagnoses to patients. He gathered up some simple images from the Internet and made a laminated book, which he carried with him in the emergency department.  He soon found that giving patients visual explanations not only made understanding difficult concepts easier for patients, but also saved time.  From this revelation, came another: If a picture book works well, wouldn’t a video work too?

So, Dr. Gogarty started the company Incendant, which offers a series of videos for hospital staff and doctors to share with patients that visually illustrate common and complex diagnoses.  He shares the videos himself with patients he sees at the hospital and then sends them emails with the links afterwards. He says that seeing people gain understanding of their conditions and hearing their appreciative feedback makes him feel that he is doing things right. And more importantly, that his patients “get the benefits of better health that come from being truly engaged and understanding their care.”

Reaching Out with Online Video

A multi-service healthcare clinic is Austin, Texas also has had some success in using video to help add value to the services they provide to patients. The Austin Diagnostic Clinic’s (ADC) YouTube Channel offers videos on a wide range of healthcare topics. There you can find answers to some  common healthcare questions, like “Should I Get a Flu Shot?” and see how diagnostic procedures like CT scans and cartoid ultrasounds work. There’s even a video that explains the opportunities they have available for patients to participate in clinical trials:

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with ADC’s Website Designer and Content Manager Cindy Brummer about their efforts. She told us that after the initial success of their “Choosing the Right Backpack for your Child” video in 2011, they started to realize that there were many more topics they could cover through video that might be helpful to patients, and set to work developing videos that covered cardiology, women’s health and more. When doctors started to get calls from patients who had found their videos online, they began to see the potential to provide better service to patients.

“Now that they don’t have to spend quite as much time explaining basic procedures, they can spend their time with the patients delving into deeper issues. And, for the patient, having that information before their visit can help make things a little less scary, ” Cindy says.

Cindy also believe that a lot of their success come from focusing their content on questions that patients commonly ask. One of their most-viewed videos, show patients directions to one of their hard-to-find clinics.

Hitting the Right Notes

British physician Tapas Mukherjee was recently featured on NPR for his slightly more adventurous approach to educating through online video. He wrote and recorded a song set to the tune of Deep Blue Something’s late 90’s hit, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that aimed to help doctors remember asthma treatment guidelines:

According to the article, when the hospital surveyed doctors two months after the video was released, all polled they knew about the asthma guidelines, and 80 percent said they were using them. They also scored much better on knowledge of specifics of asthma treatment. (Source: NPR)

Video and the Clinical Trial Participant

Currently, patients can experience several barriers to participating in clinical trials. Many patients aren’t aware that clinical research is an option for them. Once they do learn about the possibility of participating in studies, they may be discouraged by fear or a misunderstanding of the risks and benefits due to poor communication from the trial designers.

Dr. Gogarty’s efforts succeeded because he saw a patient’s visit to the doctor as a learning process. Upon diagnosis, patients can experience information overload as the doctor tries to explain their condition, symptoms and treatment options in a very short amount of time.  In much the same way, volunteering for a clinical trial is also a learning process. The patient is often trying to learn about the clinical trial process, the physical and logistical requirements of the trial they’re interested in and risks and benefits associated with it during a short visit with the study coordinator.

It’s important for us as clinical trial sponsors and designers to take the time to listen to patients and learn what methods of communication tend to work best for them. And, based on their input, we need to come up with communication solutions that go beyond text-heavy handouts and jargon-heavy conversations.

In our own conversations with patients and patient advocates, we often hear that having more visual and interactive resources to help clarify the information presented in informed consent documents and clinical trial protocols would be tremendously helpful. We sponsored the Clinical Trials Visualization Redesign Challenge in an effort to gather up ideas on how to present clinical trial protocols and informed consent documents in a more user-friendly and visually appealing way. You can see all the challenge submissions and vote for your favorites on our ChallengePost site from now until Oct. 30

So, what do you think? Are videos, pictures, diagrams and mobile apps effective tools for reaching out to patients and clinical trial volunteers? Please let us know in the comments.


  1. Absolutely yes! Videos, pictures, diagrams and mobile apps would/should be used for reaching out! For most of us, speaking from a patient side, and a caregiver side, the diagnosis is overwhelming, and things get lost in translation for sure! Having a trusted source where you can go back and retrieve info that “can’t quite remember” what was said, would be huge.

    Same for clinical trials. Information is sometimes big and complicated and if you’ve been dealt a diagnosis like ALS, many times you don’t know even where to begin to sort through which clinical trial might be right for you.

    For ALS, the only treatment available right now is symptom management at best. Being able to chose a clinical trial based on what symptoms seem to be most urgent would be huge. Easy to grasp details of what to expect and not expect would be huge for people with ALS. Mobile apps and diagrams would be very effective tools in this disease clinical trial trial finder.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful innovative ideas to make clinical trials more approachable for all.

  2. You may want to check out Postwire Health. HIPAA-compliant software that lets providers record the instructions they give on video/audio so it can be shared on a patient’s resource page. Not generic videos. Patient-specific and personalized.

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