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Do No Harm: Visual Communications in Healthcare


I‘ve always found Hippocrates and the origin of “Do No Harm” inspiring and fascinating. Overlaying ethical boundaries on an emerging field where peoples’ safety (and their very lives) were at stake had great foresight. Fast-forward a couple of millennia, and not only is the tenet still valid, but countless governing bodies have sprung up to preserve this near-sacred covenant. And rightfully so.

But there is a downside to the regulatory vigilance that keeps companies, institutions and even individual doctors in fear of a very costly misstep: Patients may not be getting the information they need in a way they can use it from the very companies, institutions and doctors who are actually in the best position to help them.

Instead, the public clicks into chat rooms to learn about treatment options and “real world” experience of what they’re being told in patient rooms. They factor that information into their decisions about treatment – and weight it however they choose whether the information is valid or not.

And that brings me to today’s topic: The medical community is being forced to compete in this New Era of digital communication in a way it has never been before, not since Hippocrates first penned that oath. But being slow to embrace a new form of communication — or standing on the sidelines altogether — does not live up to the “Do No Harm” precept. By not embracing the new way people seek and absorb information, the medical industry is doing lots of harm.

For an industry that loves studies, the results are in. People learn more and more quickly by watching information presented through video than through reading brochures or listening to people talk. There was a reason our old-school professors wrote key words and phrases on blackboards – but it was more than a form of reinforcement. To this day I remember the action of a professor writing a certain word or phrases, but I don’t remember what he or she was saying at the time. It’s the moving image of the moment that still plays in my head.

Video communications has a vital role to play in the medical field, and it’s something that medical communications professionals need to invest time and money in.

➢ Video can explain disease and treatment options in a way that patients can access and re-access anytime, anywhere, leading to more informed choices, and therefore increased confidence and wellbeing.

➢ Video can help doctors prepare patients for specific treatments. A recent study showed that some doctors spend just eight minutes with each patient. Video used properly can provide a lot of the information and answer the common questions that doctors no longer have time for. These videos are low cost, easy to produce and are a win-win for both doctor and patient.

➢ Just because the FDA looms large doesn’t mean the pharmaceutical industry shouldn’t be using video to establish a presence online. Every drug, every device already has a presence online – just not one the manufacturer is necessarily a part of. Effective, PRB-approved video communication in pharma creates an on-the-record transparency that provides a foothold in the coliseum of public opinion.

➢ And then there’s the business of medical education. A recent New England Journal of Medicine article titled “Lecture Halls Without Lectures: A Proposal for Medical Education” suggests that incorporating video into the learning curriculum is an effective way to both share basic information and prime students before going into more traditional learning situations, like a lecture. Better learning = better doctors.

The classic case of “too long; didn’t read” plagues the workforce across all industries, and healthcare is no exception. But video takes less time on average for a student, patient or doctor to absorb than written materials. Visual instruction also has a higher retention rate. Most importantly, you can’t pause or rewind a professor or doctor if you didn’t understand the first time around. All good reasons for the healthcare industry to embrace video in a meaningful way sooner rather than later.


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