Health IT Pulse

Jul 18 2011   1:03PM GMT

On kittens, ‘bof fry flew’ and health education videos

Beastwood Profile: Beastwood

patient engagement

Last week the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) said it would be developing animated health education videos to explain the benefits of health IT and the HITECH Act to the general public.

Scorn and ridicule rained upon the ONC’s announcement. Criticism mixed equal parts “stop treating us like children!” and “how much tax money is this wasting?”

Stop. It’s a good idea. To explain why, I give you three words — bof fry flew.

That’s the sound bite from the animated health education video “Stroke Heroes Act Fast,” produced in 2005 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

Watch the video. Try to get that song out of your head. Try to say “bof fry flew” without smiling. You can’t.

That’s the point. Thanks to a 30-second version of that video, which aired on TV stations in the Boston area, I and countless other Bay State residents will never forget the signs of a stroke. Six years later, I still remember.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a lighthearted approach to public education efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) realized this two months ago. Rather than write yet another pamphlet about disaster preparedness, the agency decided to make sure we were ready for a zombie apocalypse.

A CDC spokesman told The Wall Street Journal the agency was capitalizing on a spike in Twitter traffic once the word “zombie” came up in a discussion about nuclear radiation in Japan. Given that The Journal noticed, it’s safe to say the campaign succeeded.

Will health IT education videos get the same attention? They certainly can’t hurt — the ONC’s request for proposal (RFP) for the video project notes that barely one in seven American adults can correctly identify the HITECH Act.

My (thoroughly unsolicited) advice? Create an animated version of Surprised Kitty named Ehrl whose astonishment with the potential of health information exchange, electronic health records and telehealth knows no bounds. You know you’d watch.

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