Health care systems strive for authenticity, connection in videos for the web

February 15, 2018


As viewership of online videos booms, ministry members have increasingly produced their own videos and say health care provides a trove of content possibilities. They say viewers are consuming everything from wellness information, to patient experience stories, to provider profiles.

Pediatrician Dr. Gopinathan Nambiar, right, gets a microphone from videographer Dave Antoine before the doctor is interviewed for HSHS Medical Group's video series "Health Today."

Hospital and health system marketing teams measure the success of video messaging using online analytics that record the number of views from each online media channel where it's posted, reviewing comments posted online by viewers and by gauging if there's an upswing in new patients or appointments.

Last May, Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Avera Health launched a blog called Balance; it often produces short videos to post there and elsewhere, such as on YouTube, Facebook or other social media channels. "We're constantly interviewing patients," said Lindsey Meyers, the system's vice president of public relations. "Patient stories are probably the most powerful storytelling tool we have." An effective patient testimonial about the importance of a screening test they received at Avera Health, for instance, "helps to move someone to action," she said.

Health care systems say the expertise of their own staffs also can be an important draw online. In October, the system used Facebook Live for an event where two breast cancer specialists, Avera Medical Group Breast Oncologist Dr. Amy Krie and Breast Surgeon Dr. Julie Reiland, sat down with Meyers for a live chat about breast cancer screenings, treatments and care collaboration. Fifty-eight people shared the live chat and it has been viewed more than 12,000 times. Meyers said Avera Health knows from experience that screenings go up in the days and weeks after doctors are broadcast explaining who should be screened, at what age, and how often.

A former contestant on "The Biggest Loser" reality show, Sonya Jones now works for HSHS Medical Group and often profiles doctors in video format. Photo by Polly Parsons

In addition to the educational and motivational information, videos featuring Avera Health experts raise awareness about the system's providers and services. "You need to be there all the time, and then hopefully when people need health care, they'll choose you," Meyers explained.

Powerful storytelling
One key to success for Saint Alphonsus Health System, based in Boise, Idaho, and part of Trinity Health, is the power of an authentic story.

Contracted photographer Michael Winkleman, left, and an Avera Health public relations coordinator, Jake Iversen, at work in a video and photography studio at Avera Health in Sioux Falls, S.D. 
Photo courtesy of Avera Health

Joshua Schlaich, public relations and digital strategy manager for Saint Alphonsus Health System, said one powerful video showed Boise Police Department Cpl. Kevin Holtry, who had been shot by an assailant and severely injured while on the job in 2016. The paralyzed officer came back to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center to thank his care providers.

The moving reunion, which took place last fall, provided both a story that was well-received in the region and a look at the lifesaving work done every day in hospitals.

Jones said some patients say they've selected a new doctor based on what they learned about the physician in video profiles.

Another video story, this one about a cancer patient ringing a bell to mark the end of her treatment, led to online comments about the quality of care at the hospital. Another cancer patient wrote that seeing the woman's joy at her treatment milestone was a source of hope. Another commenter was looking for a good oncologist, Schlaich said.

"If you're doing the right things, if your staff is doing the right things, and your organization is doing the right things — as we know we are — that's going to come through when you tell your story."

Creating connections
Sonya Jones, an outreach representative for HSHS Medical Group, first gained a television following in 2014 as a contestant on "The Biggest Loser," the former NBC reality show where participants compete to lose weight. Jones lost 144 pounds. HSHS Medical Group hired her in 2016 to promote health and wellness. Part of her job involves hosting "Health Today," an online video series that profiles the medical group's providers. She asks about their medical specialties, the care they give patients and draws out some personal details about the provider that often resonate with patients.

Dr. Terese Laughlin, a podiatric surgeon with HSHS Medical Group in Springfield, Ill., and Jacksonville, Ill., talks in her profile about becoming interested in her field when she was a competitive runner. She saw a podiatrist who treated her for an injury and then became her mentor.

She said the best part of her job is hearing from patients that they're feeling good post-treatment. In the video she mentions a patient who approached her at a road running event beaming about having just clocked a personal best finishing time. Laughlin had treated the person for an injury.

Jones said the videos can make people think of the doctor as approachable.

HSHS Medical Group produces "Ask an Expert" videos featuring HSHS providers giving care tips and timely health care information. Such videos, posted on YouTube and HSHS Medical Group web pages, can draw patients to providers in competitive markets, Jones said. "What we want to do is set ourselves apart."



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