Alternative Media: Time to Change the Channel

Upgraded hospital television and Internet systems equal new marketing opportunities.
Nov 01, 2006
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

More often than not, hospital rooms are outfitted with a simple television, tethered to a bed that provides poor audio and a basic remote control. But, under increased pressure to improve patient satisfaction, hospitals are now looking at new ways to boost patient morale. One way they are doing this is by providing some comforts of home, such as on-demand television and Internet access.

Beyond Television Dave Schofield, Skylight Healthcare Systems
This upgraded technology, still in its infancy at the hospital level, offers a host of potential opportunities for pharma companies to market their products through health-education videos and branded "info-tainment." Pharm Exec spoke with Dave Schofield, president and CEO of broadband connectivity provider Skylight Healthcare Systems, about how improved technologies in hospital rooms can provide pharma marketers with a new method of reaching a captive audience.

Pharm Exec: Why are hospitals incentivized to upgrade their systems?

Schofield: The general population expects it. A guest can go into any hotel today, and if it doesn't have high-speed Internet, if it doesn't have cable TV programming, if it doesn't have movies on demand—the hotel can't be competitive. Many people are accustomed to high-end communication services at home and at the office. So, it's natural to provide that experience in the hospital space.

Hospitals need to do this for competitive reasons and to improve their patient-satisfaction or SAT scores. With HCAHPS [Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems] coming, the visibility of SAT scores—a ranking of hospitals locally and regionally—they're doing whatever they can. Keep in mind: A lot of hospital executives are bonused on patient-satisfaction scores.

How prevalent is broadband access in hospitals right now?

Most established hospitals today do not have high-speed Internet access in patient rooms. However, more and more hospitals are including broadband in their plans as they expand or upgrade wings, or build new towers. Probably less than 10 percent of the hospitals out there have wired their patient rooms for broadband.

How many hospitals currently offer health education this way?

Our market niche is new. There's probably less than 150 of our type of systems installed in the whole industry, and we have about 35 to 40 in that range. We'll probably double that in 2007. I think interactive communication in the patient room will grow 100 percent every single year for the next three to five years. So within five years, our system, or one of our competitors', will become a new standard within hospitals.

Are hospitals required to offer some level of health education?

JCAHO [Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations] requires hospitals to deliver to the patient, during their hospital stay, a certain amount of health education based on their respective disease state. Our system can send customized and automated health education right to the patient, based on their disease state.

For example, if a patient is diabetic, the nurse education team can say, "Listen, at the end of 24 hours we want you to send that diabetic patient video number one. At the end of 48 hours, video number two. At the end of 72 hours, video number three." The nurses can do this in a way that is completely automated, so they don't have to wheel in a VCR on a cart. It's not a pre-timed, pre-scheduled loop; it's completely on demand. Or, the patients can access it on their own. They can go into our system, click on "health education," navigate to the diabetes section, and watch a video on the disease.

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