What healthcare can learn from Hollywood

Health literacy    Hollywood

Can you remember what you did when faced with a task or responsibility that you know absolutely nothing about? You either got down to action and started researching – or you froze, and did nothing.

If you went for the second option, you’re not alone – this is what happens to many patients when diagnosed with a new condition, or when they suffer a sudden injury. After all, if you were suddenly diagnosed with high blood pressure you’d be facing a huge learning curve because you’d probably never given your blood pressure much thought before. It would require a massive lifestyle change out of the blue – a scary thought!

Most people have had limited exposure to serious medical events outside of what they may have watched in a movie or in television shows. As a filmmaker, I love drama and I can see how, as humans, we are drawn to drama for entertainment, but as a professional working in the medical sector for more than 35 years, I can also see how this can be counterproductive to education. Medical procedures are often over-dramatised in the media too, and this can alarm, rather than reassure.

Being both a filmmaker and a healthcare professional, I recognise both the value of visual stimuli and the need for better education for patients – so I’ve married the two. In other words, I realised that film can be a valuable tool in delivering informative medical advice to patients. It can tell them what might happen with their condition, what is required from them following or during a treatment or procedure – and, if delivered correctly, can even calm nervous patients.

This idea forms the basis of my new venture, Medical Expectations. Our aim is to give patients easy-to-follow information so they can make informed decisions, proving that fear due to lack of knowledge can easily be overcome. Educating patients on their condition, and giving them expectations, improves outcomes and reduces unnecessary after-hour calls. It can also provide caregivers information specific to the patient’s condition, and helps with the stress of ‘not knowing’.

It’s proven that a lack of understanding is not accomplished through written instructions. In fact, most of the time, written instructions are so generic that it results in more questions than answers. Reports show that patients, when faced with virtually any diagnosis, will forget 80% of what their doctor told them at the time of their office visit – cue a barrage of phone calls to the doctor from the family, asking what to expect. Sadly, privacy laws prohibit virtually all answers that are needed to provide comfort.

However, when information is conveyed in video form, it’s a different story. Patients become empowered through information, and become less dependent. They have the confidence, knowledge and awareness to take responsibility for and manage their conditions, and that cuts costs too.

People assume film is all about entertainment. But as a film producer and healthcare educator, I know that storytelling can be a powerful tool in education too. A well-produced video can be one of the most significant tools in the healthcare professional’s arsenal, so with Medical Expectations, I hope to deliver this solution to medical professionals worldwide, enhancing the patient experience for all.

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