Editor's Note: Video is rapidly becoming a preferred medium for patient education. We've asked eMedTV, a leader in patient education through online video, to explain why this medium is growing so quickly in the health field. 

health information video
Example video from the eMedTV library: Treatments for Heart Disease

A noted challenge facing today’s physicians is communicating to their patients the medical intricacies involved with their condition and prescribed treatment.  Between the time constraints and potential language barriers, it can be an almost insurmountable task.

Adding to the inherent difficulty of this task is the amount of misinformation so readily available on the Internet today.  In search of answers, patients may find themselves reading blogs and non-medically reviewed articles where the author is not identified, nor is he or she a professional or accredited authority on the subject.

Written instructions often misunderstood

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the Department of Education tested 26,000 adults in the National Adult Literacy Survey to assess the literacy of the U.S. population in the English language. On the basis of the survey results, it was estimated that 40 million to 44 million people, or about one quarter of the adult population in the United States, cannot understand written materials that require only very basic proficiency in reading.1

This underscores the burden placed on today’s practitioners to effectively communicate with all of their patients, regardless of literacy or English comprehension level.  The rapid improvements in computer storage and, more importantly, the widespread adoption of high speed internet connections, have driven video as a viable option for providing health care information to patients. The only problem with video has been the cost and complexity in developing video content.

Video materials for patient education

Recently, though, several health care companies have begun developing high quality video content for patients. Most post their videos on YouTube, but unfortunately there is really no way to identify high-quality from bad on YouTube.

Sites like eMedTV.com, on the other hand, have consistently high-quality – and most importantly, physician edited – video materials for patients. This lets physicians provide patients with free, vetted health information on specific conditions using straightforward, conversational language. The eMedTV library consists of nearly 3,000 original health education videos covering hundreds of medical conditions, procedures and treatments. Several other sites, like Healthology and WebMD also have video materials.

"For many consumers, getting straight answers to medical questions – whether from a physician or the Web – is intimidating and complicated," said Dr. Art Schoenstadt, founder and president of eMedTV. "eMedTV is truly health information brought to life. We give you the option of reading articles or watching the Web’s largest library of original health education videos available online so you can make more informed and confident healthcare decisions."

Driven by research that has shown that interactive multimedia presentations have been shown to increase understanding, decrease anxiety, and improve compliance, Schoenstadt and others believe that broader access to reliable and easy to understand information is a necessity. Unlike most online medical information  which is text-heavy and loaded with medical jargon,  videos are often more easily understood and allow patients to learn about thousands of health topics at their own pace.  In addition to its health education videos available in English, eMedTV also offers a selection of videos in Spanish, German, Czech, Polish, Turkish, Dutch and Swiss-German.

Many not-for-profit organizations have also embraced video presentations as an essential tool in communicating with patients , including The American Cancer Society,  which features videos on its campaign to increase access to cancer care, and Autism Speaks, which offers a set of videos that show the early signs of autism.

While the list of challenges facing the medical community grows, so does the number and breadth of resources that have become available.  Increasingly the use of video to communicate complex medical concepts has been introduced into the clinical setting to minimize language barriers as it has been shown to increase patient understanding and ultimately satisfaction.


1. New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 337:272-274. July 24, 1997, Number 4.

About the Author 

Beth Zembruski is affiliated with eMedTV, and has long been at the interface of the internet and health care.