How to Create Online Videos for Your Medical Practice

February 1, 2013

Get online videos up and running pronto in three steps.

Noel Henley, an orthopedic hand and upper extremity surgeon practicing in Fayetteville, Ark., calls himself a "visual learner" who likes to draw pictures for patients in the office to show them what is going on with their joints and bones. So when online videos started becoming popular a few years ago, he found the moving picture to be the perfect medium to educate patients in a way that was complementary to his amateur sketches.

The result: More patients searching the Internet for ortho docs in his geographic area have found him and are better educated on relevant topics before and after their visits with him.

"The most powerful effect has been that of building credibility with my own patients," says Henley, who shoots, edits, and posts his own videos to his website. "I have had and do have, every month, someone come in and mention the website and mention finding me online."

From the home page of your favorite newspaper's website to your mobile device, online videos are popping up on every piece of technology you and your patients own. But although video offers numerous benefits, from boosting your online presence (and the likelihood patients will find you online) to educating existing patients on important topics, the overwhelming majority of physicians haven't realized its potential, says Dean Heller, a Miami-based cardiologist and president of VideoMD, an online video-sharing service.

"Not only can physicians introduce themselves and their practices to potential patients, but they can and should be using online video to help with their own patients' education," says Heller. "Doctors never have enough time in the office to fully educate their patients, and online video can help supplement that."

The good news is that making a video is inexpensive and probably a lot easier than you think, and doesn't require a professional film crew. Here are three steps you can take to get videos up and running pronto sans the help of a videographer.

Step one: Planning

Before you do anything online, from writing a blog to posting a video, figuring out your purpose is key: Are you posting a video to educate potential patients on a specific area of interest, such as flu vaccines or joint pain? Or, are you offering potential patients an inside look into your specialty medical practice, and what they can expect on their first visit?

The type of video you make will determine how long it is. And for online videos, shorter is sometimes sweeter.

Salem, Ohio-based family medicine physician Mike Sevilla started creating videos a few years ago to expand his social media footprint. As such, most of his videos are accompaniments to his online blog "Family Medicine Rocks" and are thus inspired by blog topics.

"What I would do is take a piece of that blog post and then do a 30-second video clip on a key point of that blog post, to emphasize a specific point," says Sevilla.

For example, every year he writes a blog post about flu shots, and uses the accompanying video to answer common concerns, such as whether the flu vaccine causes the flu.

Henley's video collection, meanwhile, comprises short, one-minute segments titled after the questions they answer (e.g., "Can Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Come Back?"). Other videos that show demonstrations of procedures (such as diagnosing a cyst) are a bit longer and require a second person to hold a camera. To protect patient privacy, he doesn't include any patient-identifying footage.

In addition to purpose and length, you should plan your delivery style. While Henley and Sevilla both say they're comfortable talking off the top of their heads, sans scripts, not all physicians may be ready to do this the first time around - or ever.

"A lot of it is the comfort level of the physicians," says Sevilla. "Some docs are very outgoing and don't need a script, but some doctors are more introverted and need the comfort of a script."

Step two: Creating

Now that you've planned the content and length of your video, it's time to start executing. And what you need to create your video depends not only on content, but also on your current technology and how much money you want to set aside for certain expenditures.

If you are considering hiring a videographer, be prepared to fork over a few Benjamins for filming time, video-editing production, and placement of the final footage on the Web. And it might not make too much of a difference in the long run.

"The problem is you have to keep doing it," warns Henley. "You want to find a balance between quality maintenance and quality production that you can maintain. You're not going to call in a production team every time you have a lightning bolt of inspiration."

To create a basic video of yourself, such as one where you espouse advice on a medical topic like flu shots, you will need a video camera and video-editing technology.

Most newly released PCs and Macs as well as smartphones are equipped with basic desktop cameras, or you can use a webcam that clips onto your monitor or a full-size or palm-size camcorder to create movies.

Once these movies are created (as movie files on your computer), there is the option of sprucing them up. Henley favors "ScreenFlow," a screen-capture software program that lets you record what's on your screen, and the Mac-based editing program "iMovie" to add captions for different portions of educational videos (there are similar free screen-capture tools like "Jing" for docs on a budget). Henley's background music is created via his Mac's "GarageBand" program, which comes with several tools for creating custom background music (so your video won't run the risk of copyright infringement). Though you don't have to use an external microphone to capture sound, as most cameras record sound, Henley uses one he believes gives his videos better sound quality.

But if you opt to add enhancements, don't go nuts, warns San Francisco-based healthcare consultant Laurie Morgan of Capko & Co.

"Videos don't have to be very fancy," says Morgan. "In fact, there is always the danger of veering into 'cheesy' territory if there's too much soft lighting or tinkly music."

(*Follow this link for more tips on presentation for online videos.)

Heller says some of the highest-rated videos on VideoMD are those basic ones where doctors are just "sitting at their desk, giving great health information."

If you are camera shy and don't want to appear on screen, consider a slideshow, Henley suggests.

"The great news is whether you have a Mac or Windows machine, PowerPoint or Keynote, those software programs now have the export options to export a video," says Henley. "You can create a PowerPoint presentation and convert to video. And you can create the slides and upload to YouTube. You can add narration or audio to it, you can add music. That's the easiest way to get started."

Sharing your video

After you create your video, the first step to having the world see it is to upload the movie file to the Web. There are many ways to do this easily: Some cameras, such as those embedded in smartphones, offer users the option to upload to the Web instantly. Or, you can start an account with a video-sharing website such as YouTube or Vimeo, and upload videos directly to those sites from your computer.

Videos may be uploaded to multiple places, such as social media outlets like Facebook, medical video sites such as VideoMD, or your practice's website.

If your website's content management system doesn't have an easy-to-use tool to help you do this, enlist the help of a professional.

As with any opinion-based online content, videos should include a written disclaimer on their landing pages (your YouTube page, for example). A disclaimer should emphasize that the medical content isn't intended to replace the guidance of a physician, says Sevilla.

Finally, when you're ready to share, don't hesitate for fear of posting a bad video.

"What I always tell physicians is 'get started,'" says Henley. "Get yourself out there and make something. You can always take it down if you want or redo it later. The perfectionism in creating patient-education videos is going to slow you down in getting something out there. The goal isn't to create a perfectly produced video. The goal is to help patients, so as long as you're creating something that's helpful to patients, you can't lose."

Marisa Torrieri is an associate editor for Physicians Practice. She can be reached at marisa.torrieri@ubm.com.

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Physicians Practice.