Digital Signage Helps Joslin Diabetes Clinic Educate
ContextMedia Provides Free Waiting-Room Information For Affiliate Patients Living With A Chronic Condition
By Daniel P. Dern

In the waiting room of the Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at The Hospital of Central Connecticut (THOCC), digital signage provided by ContextMedia:Health‘s Diabetes Health Network (DHN)  is providing patients and the people accompanying them with a mix of licensed educational, nutrition, exercise and other diabetes-oriented information. It also provides basic information about the clinic and news and weather crawls.

The Hospital of Central Connecticut is 414-bed institution with facilities in the cities of New Britain and Southington. According to Sebastian Vassallo, Center Administrator and Manager of the Metabolic Service Center, the hospital’s diabetes clinic is one of nearly 37 affiliates of the Joslin Diabetes Center, which in turn is a teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School. 

“Joslin Diabetes Center at The Hospital of Central Connecticut has a staff of about 15, and serves about 14,000 visits a year,” says Vassallo. “We diagnose and treat diabetes and other endocrine diseases. We offer everything from the medical intervention to education, in both one-on-one and class settings. In addition to face-to-face interactions, we offer supporting documentation and booklets to reinforce the education.”

Turning Waiting Time into Learning Time

Being diagnosed with diabetes is almost always a life-changing event (I’m speaking from personal experience here) — and requires a mix of self-education and lifestyle changes.

To ease patients and whoever is with them into this new aspect of their life — and turn the inevitable waiting-room time into productive time, in 2007, the clinic became a user of the then-relatively-new Diabetes Health Network from Chicago-based ContextMedia:Health.

DHN is one of several content-focused digital content programming services that Context Media offers to medical practices. (Currently, they also offer the Rheumatoid Health Network and Heart Health Network.)

ContextMedia:Health provides DHN in the form of digital signage — flat-screen televisions (between 26 to 32 inches, depending on practice size), with content stored on a small media player, which is typically hidden behind the display. 

ContextMedia:Health has been using displays from LG and media players from AOpen and Sherlock Systems, and for the content management system, BroadSign. New content updates are provided via the Internet.

Currently, ContextMedia:Health provides services to point-of-care medical practices in all 50 states of the US. According to the company, over 4,500 health care professionals use the ContextMedia:Health network, ranging from individual practices to hospitals and health care systems including John Hopkins, University of Chicago, Yale Diabetes Center and Northwestern University.

There is no charge to the clinic for DHN; ContextMedia:Health provides its network content, and the display systems, including installation, equipment and maintenance, to clinics at no charge and there is no time commitment. ContextMedia:Health’s content includes commercial messages from sponsors; clinics can opt to remove commercials from specific companies or about specific products.

The content is not interactive, but combines a rotating “loop,” that refreshes frequently, with the option of live news and weather feeds at the bottom scroll bar and sidebar respectively. The sidebar is also personalized for each site with information about the staff and practice.

In the main area, content comes from a playlist of information licensed by ContextMedia:Health from leading medical information production houses. Playlists for DHN include the general-purpose Basic playlist, which includes nutrition, exercise and other diabetes-related information; the Spanish playlist, with roughly half the content in Spanish, and half consisting of Hispanic-oriented content in English; and the Pediatric playlist, which features well-known sports and entertainment figures and children who all have Type 1 Diabetes. Licensed content for the ContextMedia:Health networks comes from organizations including dLife, American Dietetic Association, JDRF, Arthritis Foundation, WovenMedia and HealthDayTV.

At the left, a video-slide segment created by ContextMedia:Health for the site at no charge, with slides about topics such as patient paperwork, staff introductions and photos, and information about education and exercise classes

Optionally, if Internet connectivity is available, news tickers from RSS feeds updated every few minutes, such as weather and news. Current RSS feed choices are WebMD-Health News, ESPN-Sports News, Yahoo-Entertainment News and Yahoo-National News.

Free Information for Patients During Their Free Time

THOCC JDC started with DHN four years ago, in 2007. “It was a free trial product, and the advertising was minimal enough that it didn’t create any conflict of interest,” says Vassallo. “The most appealing part was the customization, letting us edit, add extra information for the patients, putting faces behind the team, and posing questions and challenges.”

On the outpatient side, says Vassallo, “We use the DHN to highlight important educational topics, such as diabetic retinopathy, and ‘your HgA1c level’ (a 90-averaging measure of the patient’s blood sugar level). We also use it as a media to introduce our team members.”

“The main benefit is increasing our patients’ familiarity with the issues,” says Vassallo. “It’s easier to absorb this as video rather than from just reading. The DHN includes stories, cooking demos, exercise pieces and more. I think that the ‘story messages’ are the ones that capture most of our patients, it’s the best way to get somebody to be attentive.”

Currently, the HOCC JDC affiliate has one 36-inch display. “We are working on opening up a second office, and plan to ask for another display for that office,” says Vassallo. “I’d also like to get smaller monitors put into the exam rooms, since patients also spend time waiting there. It offers another opportunity for them to absorb a message. Plus, the message in an exam room could be more specific, like ‘Have you checked your feet for diabetic neuropathy or other problems?’”

For diabetes — or many other medical/health concerns — there’s often a lot to learn, so it’s nice to know there’s at least one time where watching television can be good for your health.
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