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Videos as Instruments of Physician Engagement

 |  By  
   September 27, 2011

Hospitals looking to connect with patients, grow market share, and increase awareness about their services are turning to physician videos as a means to accomplish those goals. It's also a way to engage the physicians, says Pam Marecki, assistant vice president of communications at Bayhealth Medical Center, a two-hospital system in southern Delaware.

"Research has shown that physicians who have a video gain more Web traffic," she says. In June 2010, Bayhealth started taping a video series titled "A Bit of Advice" at the same time it was completing video biographies about its physicians for its website, "We wanted to make our Website more interactive and engaging for the consumers," says Marecki, adding that they succeeded in engaging both consumers and physicians.

"Physicians with video links on their Web pages had three to four times more traffic, so it's a great marketing tool for physicians."

To date, Bayhealth, which has a medical staff of more than 400 physicians, has completed about 50 "A Bit of Advice" videos and will continue to add videos to the site periodically.

The video series was done at the same time the biographies were recorded, so there was no additional cost to the system because the video biographies were budgeted as part of the launch for Bayhealth's new website.

Initially, physicians' response to the campaign was a little slow, says Marecki, but interest has grown with the number of videos. To prep doctors for the video segment, Bayhealth asked physicians to consider what they would tell their patients if they could give just one piece of advice.

"We wanted them to think about it, but not script it out," says Marecki.

Immediate connection
Similar to Bayhealth, Tufts Medical Center wanted to increase awareness, stand out in a very competitive market and cluttered media space, and offer consumers the chance to "meet" its physicians.

"We knew that once introduced to the services and physicians at the medical center, patients would be very interested in receiving care here," said Brooke Tyson Hynes, Tufts' vice president of public affairs and communications. "It was a matter of getting our foot in the door with more consumers so they could see the depth and sophistication of our services and the talent and compassion of our physicians."

However, unlike other hospitals that have added videos to their website, the Boston-based medical center built, a website that features the expertise of its physicians through videos. "TV gave us an immediate way to connect with patients and easily allowed them to contact us for more information and appointments," explains Hynes.

It includes health channels that offer information about specific diseases and service lines, such as cancer, heart conditions, and pediatric health. With these channels, consumers can learn more about atrial fibrillation, for example, by watching a physician video that explains its symptoms and treatment options.

The website offers videos that debunk common medical myths—for example, cold/wet weather makes you sick, breastfeeding is easy, and you can't have intimate relations after a heart attack. It also provides healthcasts on topics such as enlarged prostate or hip replacement that consumers can listen to live and submit questions by phone or via Twitter; they can also download an on-demand version of the show.

In addition, the website helps Tufts improve consumer education and wellness efforts, says Hynes. "These videos provide tips for staying healthy, dealing with illness, and making good healthcare decisions," she says. "We have received numerous e-mails from patients saying that they watched the video and finally truly understand their disease or condition."

Prepping the docs

The 415-bed hospital, which partnered with PARTNERS+simons to develop the look, tone, and content of the videos, is proud of the campaign, says Hynes. "As soon as it launched we had physicians contacting us about being part of the next round of videos.", which launched in 2009, currently has more than 100 videos, and as of

2011 also added nurses to the site. In addition, there have been more than 100,000 unique visitors to the site, brand awareness and preference numbers are rising steadily, and appointment requests are up 150%, says Tony Cotrupi, president and director of brand development with PARTNERS+simons.

"We've scheduled a significant number of appointments directly through the site, and many of these patients are patients who had never previously had an experience with Tufts Medical Center," added Hynes.

What makes different from what other hospitals are doing in the realm of physician videos is the quality of the videos and the fact that there is a large quantity of videos on the website, says Cotrupi.

Part of the reason physician videos are so successful is they help patients feel more comfortable. For example, patients can look on the website and listen to a specialist at Tufts whom they have been referred to so when they meet this person they are already a bit more at ease, explains Hynes.

As one physician explained, the first patient encounter is like an interview, Cotrupi says—the goal is for the family to feel confident that the physician can take care of him or her.

"We saw the videos as a way to meet the physician and get their first consult," he says. "Our suggestion was that we don't want the physician to sell the hospital, but we want the physician to imagine that he or she is across the table from someone needing brain surgery." So what would that first conversation be like with a family member, and what questions should they ask?

Repurposing content

Tufts recognized the potential of using such high-quality videos in other contexts, so it has looked for ways to incorporate that content into other marketing programs.

When you build a destination, one of the challenges is keeping the content fresh, says Cotrupi. "That is why we expanded it beyond the videos to medical myths and healthcasts. We are also creating content on the site that has promotional value." For instance, the hospital can use this content for the website and in print, radio, and TV advertising.

It is important that people visit the site, but it also essential to find creative and innovative ways to promote the valuable content on the site, Cotrupi says.


Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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