We’ve written a bunch about the point-of-care space from the perspectives of the networks that provide content and screens, not to mention the marketers hoping to promote their products and services thereon. But there’s an important constituency that hasn’t weighed in, at least not to us: physicians themselves, who presumably have major influence over the degree to which their practices embrace POC marketing.

To correct that omission, we reached out to Dr. S. Steve Samudrala, medical director at America’s Family Doctors, which has three locations and a wellness practice in and around Nashville. We thought Dr. Sam, as he’s known to his patients, would be a fine commenter/critic on point-of-care marketing given his practice’s progressive approach to technology. It has been paperless since its inception in 2002.

“It was a founding principle, to be honest. Our goal is always to be as high-tech and high-touch as possible,” Dr. Sam said.

Dr. Sam contended that POC technology and content are essential to that mission. His practice’s exam rooms are equipped with PatientPoint touchscreens, which are placed in a position of prominence.

While some physicians worry about the distraction that screens can create – “the goal is always to try to get as much as possible done when we’re with the patient in the exam room,” Dr. Sam said – he explained that his patients respond well to the content featured on PatientPoint Interact. He downplayed any concerns that exam-room content diverts attention from important doctor-patient interaction.

“Sometimes I’ll be speaking to them and I’ll turn in their direction, and they’ll be clicking on the screen instead of totally and completely listening to me,” he said with a laugh. “Self-education with [content and information] that patients get to choose is really good. It makes them feel empowered. It’s not like pointing to a rack and saying, ‘Here’s a Better Homes & Gardens from 2008.’”

patient point interactive exam room
Dr. S. Steve Samudrala, with content about healthy eating offered on America’s Family Doctors’ PatientPoint Interact exam-room touchscreens. Photo credit: America’s Family Doctors

The content that resonates best with Dr. Sam’s patients tends to be related to healthy eating. For obvious reasons, marketers don’t think of physicians’ offices as recipe repositories, but Dr. Sam said patients have shown keen interest in information about the Mediterranean Diet. In particular, a recipe for mustard-glazed salmon has captured the fancy of patients in the greater Nashville area.

Asked about the importance to his practice of the screens and the content they present, Dr. Sam responded, “Extremely.” In his telling, they’ve transformed patient interactions, almost always for the better. For a patient with, say, high cholesterol, Dr. Sam will summon information on plant-based diets. This inevitably starts a conversation that might otherwise have been relegated to the final seconds of a visit.

“Someone who was here today, he has been on three different cholesterol medications and he just didn’t tolerate them well. He was like, ‘What do I do, just go home and die?,’” Dr. Sam said. “I showed him photos of plant-based foods. I showed him Beyond Meat.” In another recent encounter, an iron-deficient patient complained about the constipation that came with taking iron supplements. “I brought up a bunch of photos of iron-rich foods. The guy took out his phone and took pictures of the screen.”

As for any marketing messages delivered via PatientPoint Interact, Dr. Sam said they’re unobtrusive to the point where he barely notices them, which he intended as high praise, but might not be what marketers want to hear. He also likes the ability to create messaging of his own, such as reminders about scheduling annual physicians or information about the practice’s medical weight-loss offering.

“There’s more consumerism in medicine, because everybody’s trying to keep people engaged,” he said. “When patients are in the room, there are some that want to be engaged and some that don’t. Giving them that choice has been great for us.” 

The Third M is MM&M’s weekly health media column. Got ideas or questions? Contact Larry Dobrow at larry.dobrow@haymarketmedia.com.