By Jenn Riggle
Years ago, the only doctors you saw on TV were Marcus Welby and the docs on shows like Chicago Hope, ER and my favorite, St. Elsewhere. It was truly the case of “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.”
However, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia University, has changed all this. Oprah Winfrey, who introduced us to folks like Dr. Phil and Suze Orman, introduced us to “America’s Doctor” in 2004. The personable doctor made living a healthier life sound simple. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Hospitals can learn a lot from Dr. Oz, including how to:
Prevent white coat hypertension: What sets Dr. Oz apart is that even though he’s a world-class cardiac surgeon, he’s become a trusted friend that people welcome into their living rooms on a daily basis. Not only does he provide useful health information, he does so in a way that’s non-threatening. No one wants to consider the possibility of getting seriously ill, so it’s important for hospitals and caregivers to use simple language and give people simple steps they can take to be healthy. The goal is not to scare people, but to get them to take control of their bodies and their health.
Embrace technology: Dr. Oz has done a great job harnessing the power of new media. He hosts a daily talk show on Sirius XM radio, provides wellness information on his interactive RealAge website, and posts health information on YouTube and Twitter. Hospitals need to find new ways to leverage technology because it allows people to access health information via videos, blogs, podcasts, etc. whenever it’s convenient for them.
Go where people are: Dr. Oz understands the importance of reaching out to people in ways that are meaningful to them. In addition to being the co-author of the New York Times bestselling YOU books, he’s comfortable using digital and social media. While probably best known for his appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and his own show, Dr. Oz also writes a regular column about men’s health for Esquire magazine and goes on regular book tours. Hospitals need to follow his lead and use multiple mediums to reach out to prospective patients. It’s not enough to just have a website, they need to use both traditional and new media to educate people and promote their service lines.
Encourage people to participate in their health: Dr. Oz always invites someone from his TV show’s studio audience to put on a white coat and learn more about a health issue. So too, hospitals need to convince patients to get off the sidelines and partner with their doctor to become experts in their own health.
Realize that doctors are people, too: Dr. Oz admitted in a Huffington Post article that if he didn’t have a show to do, he probably would have put off having a colonoscopy for a few months, or perhaps years. As it was, he had a cancer scare when they found a polyp. He realized, first-hand, the importance preventive screenings – and the stress they can cause.
Talk about poop: While it’s never okay to have a potty mouth, Dr. Oz shocked us all when he started talking about poop on national television. It’s one thing for toddlers to talk about the subject, but a cardiothoracic surgeon? Dr. Oz showed us that’s people shouldn’t be afraid to talk about bodily functions – even those that take place in the bathroom.
Use sex to talk to men about healthcare: Hospitals have always known that women are healthcare gatekeepers and have focused their communications efforts to reach them. However, Dr. Oz is helping pave the way for healthcare providers to talk directly to men about their health. Not only has Dr. Oz written articles for Esquire and Men’s Health, he’s been on Jimmy Kimmel Live to talk about how belly fat can impact men’s sexual function.