New Chapter for Patient Guides

Long Island Business News
November 18, 2014
New Chapter for Patient Guides
By: Claude Solnik 

What do the patient guides the North Shore-LIJ Health System shares with all of its hospital patients have to do with J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings?”

Not much. But the health system does publish a large number of the 32-page patient guides every year – a copy was given to each of the 257,000 inpatients the system discharged in 2013 – making the guides healthcare’s version of an all-time bestseller.

The booklets are filled with “patient engagement and education,” according to PatientPoint, the Cincinnati-based “patient and physician engagement solutions” provider that publishes them. As such, they’re a critical part of a hospitalization experience – and producing several hundred thousand copies each year, while not at “Lord of the Rings” (150 million copies all-time) or “50 Shades of Grey” (100 million copies) levels, can cost a pretty penny.

North Shore-LIJ’s annual cost: zero.

The health system used to spend upward of $500,000 a year producing the patient pamphlets, but now outsources the job to PatientPoint, which funds production exclusively through advertising.

“It’s a cost-saving venture for us,” said North Shore-LIJ spokesman Terry Lynam. “It’s a huge amount of printing that needs to be done.”

PatientPoint also produces patient guides for Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center, which is happy with the helpful, well-designed product, according to Marketing Manager Carolyn Villegas.

“It’s extremely useful for the patient,” Villegas said. “They can look up services and important phone numbers.”

Alan Heyman, PatientPoint’s director of provider solutions, called the publishing arrangements a “win-win” for the hospitals who distribute the guides and the advertisers who fund them.

“The hospital can provide a vital resource to the inpatients,” Heyman said, adding the guides provide a direct bridge between patients and local advertisers. “The advertisers have an unparalleled opportunity to speak directly to the inpatients and caregivers at the hospital.”

Ads typically include “local services that might be useful,” Villegas noted, citing restaurants and drycleaners as common advertisers in Brookhaven Memorial’s guides. North Shore-LIJ even has accepted advertisements from healthcare competitors, such as long-term nursing facilities.

The patient guides are not the only publications on some hospitals’ bookshelves. North Shore-LIJ, for instance, produces and prints newsletters distributed in its 10 hospitals and sent to more than 1 million New York metropolitan area households, as well as a host of other internal publications, including some focused on research.

The health system “accepts advertising” in these publications, Lynam noted, but “we do not generate a lot of paid ads.”

And while North Shore-LIJ does produce hard copies of many of these publications, it is looking to control its printing costs by emphasizing digital alternatives.

“We’re putting greater focus on the digital side,” Lynam said.

PatientPoint, meanwhile, is looking to expand its revenue opportunities with its own digital focus. It produces prerecorded content, including advertising, for screens mounted throughout hospitals; Heyman called it a “hospital digital network” that’s completely subsidized by advertising and provided “100 percent free to the hospital.”

In September, Brookhaven Memorial began pumping a PatientPoint feed to a screen in its Patchogue emergency room. Among the digitized messages are reminders to patients and staff about the importance of washing their hands, volumes of information about the flu and diabetes and practical information for all hospital visitors, including coffee shop hours.

“There’s no cost to the hospital, but it is a resource,” Villegas said. “We can put up patient tips. It’s clean, nice messaging – pertinent information.”

Heyman said PatientPoint now provides print and digital services to 61,000 physicians nationwide, including digital content tailored specifically to examination rooms and certain medical specialties. And all of it, he noted, is shared with healthcare providers – and provided to patients – at no cost, funded completely by the advertisers.

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