Showtime for Patient Education


Hospitalist Andrea Peterson, MD, of Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn., whose job involves educating hospitalized patients about their personal health, has found an additional channel for teaching health concepts: She cohosts "Health Talk," a half-hour local cable television show in Fairfield County.

Dr. Peterson, who started working at Norwalk in 2002 as the hospital's fourth hospitalist, cohosts "Health Talk" with the hospital's vice president and chief medical officer, Eric Mazur, MD. She first appeared on the show as a guest, discussing subjects of professional interest, such as end-of-life care, ethics, patient safety, and spirituality in medicine, then served later as fill-in host before becoming the permanent cohost.

"It's really fun. It's totally different than my day job," she says. "It can also be fatiguing—you have to be bright and energetic on a sustained basis."

Conversations on the air are different than interactions with patients, as the dead space of TV can be deadly, she says. "I had to learn, with the help of a media coach, to start asking the next question while the person is finishing the previous answer. But I've gotten to interact with colleagues in totally different ways and to meet patients with inspiring stories," she says.

The program tapes four shows one day a month. Each program is broadcast several times over the course of a week. Interview subjects are both doctors and patients, and most of the interactions are unscripted.

"Both Eric and I feel it is very important to have topics and discussions that are real and meaningful to people's health, bread-and-butter issues like diabetes, colon-cancer screening, strokes and MI, and medication safety," Dr. Peterson says. "We continually do smoking education. We're always telling people: Talk to your family about what's important to you. Appoint a healthcare surrogate. These are the same messages I give to my patients in the hospital," she says.

Think you may be interesting in hosting your own patient education program? Click here for a list of community and public access TV sites.

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