"Ten years ago when I started practicing medicine, if a patient wanted to get information, they would read it in a book or
a newspaper. Today, they go on the Internet and type in 'constipation' and get 5,000 hits."
Barley says he's not just educating patients, but frequently re-educating them, telling them that the information they found
online is out-of-date or just plain wrong. He says there is a need for accurate, unbiased information in video format.
FDA Weighs In
FDA seems to agree. Tom Abrams, director of FDA's Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communication, says video Podcasts
can help FDA meet its public health objectives: "One objective is to get more good information about medical conditions and
prescription drugs disseminated to the American public. Folks have stated that these new technologies will have a greater
potential in reaching consumers who may be underserved by other media."
Abrams does caution, however, that although the technology is new and flexible, the rules governing the messages are not:
"The second objective would be to ensure that this information is accurate and balanced," he says. "We would remind pharmaceutical
companies that they need to comply with the regulations. Patients and healthcare professionals benefit from accurate and balanced
Back to Basics
When I was a TV journalist in Washington in the 1980s, a reporter I knew was obsessing about how to cover a particular homicide.
She kept going back and forth and back and forth, driving her photographer crazy. Finally, he put down his camera and said
to her, "Joan, you don't have to solve the murder, just do the story."
Something similar can be said about these new technologies that are changing the face of healthcare: You don't have to know
how to build the device—you just have to know how to build the content. It's all about the story.
Gina Moran, head of internal communications for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, has been in healthcare PR for more than 20 years.
She says everything is so much faster today, but one thing hasn't changed: "It's a funny thing. Despite all of the different
technologies and the different channels, there's still a simple story at the basis of all of it. Even a major disease is best
told through an individual story." The only thing that's really changing is the delivery mechanism.
Once you've got the video delivery mechanism down, stick to the basics of building an interesting story. Include patients
in your videos. Aside from the fact that people don't warm up to test tubes, this new delivery paradigm means that you are
communicating in an even more individualized fashion. You are not broadcasting anymore, you are "custom casting" to much more
narrowly defined patient and physician groups that can choose to watch—or not watch—your message when and where they please.
Doctors will be able to explain complicated diseases to patients, regardless of their literacy levels, by reaching into their
lab coats and pulling out a video iPod or cell phone. Patients can go online and watch it again if they didn't understand
something. And if a new indication is granted for a drug, detailing materials can be updated seconds after a rep plugs in
his or her iPod.
Patients with complicated histories will be able to store their entire chart in their cell phone or iPod. Imagine what that
will mean for emergency care! The ER doors slam open and an unconscious patient is wheeled in on the gurney. "Is he on any
medication?" asks the doctor. The paramedic says, "I don't know, check his cell phone."