5 Reasons Why
Hospital TV Sucks...
Or, is your Hospital TV system being ignored?
SYNERGY BROADCAST SYSTEMS
16115 Dooley Road
Addison, TX 75001
972-980-6991 or 800-601-6991
Hospital TV is sometimes compared to hospital food and the general perception is that universally, neither
is very good. Like all generally held perceptions it really depends on the hospital. Some hospitals do a
superb job on food service and some have very good television systems, but if you ask healthcare staffers
about either, their general response about their own offerings is usually not very positive.
As the baby boomers age and their percentage of the “senior” population grows, the demands on the
healthcare system will grow and competition will become more fierce as hospitals fight for every possible
patient. Some hospitals will rely on doctors and specialties and be able to attract patients from across the
country or around the world because of the work they do. But most hospitals won’t have this advantage
and will need to compete using other features.
One area that hospitals can talk about is their amenities such as the food, rooms, guest accomodations
and even the hospital TV system as long as they provide patients with something that differentiates them
from other local hospitals. But before we go there please read about the 5 Reasons Hospital TV Sucks and
see if your hospital appears in one of the reasons. If it does perhaps we can help you.
Reason #5: Hospital TV Is Viewed As An Expense
In some hospitals it seems as though the hospital TV system is a second or third tier cost item. Why do I
say that? It's because the TV System seems to rank below lobbies and landscaping when it comes to
spending money. Have you ever driven by a suburban hospital that didn't have impeccable landscaping
and grass that looked like it belongs on a golf course? Many urban hospitals don't have grass to worry
about but they usually always have excellent lobbies with lots of plants, art or sculptures. Why are the
grounds and lobbies so important? Because you can see them. If you're driving into the parking lot and
the grass looks bad and the bushes are dead or in need of some attention it might cause you to hesitate
or at least wonder...if they can't maintain the grounds what kind of treatment are you going to get?
The truth is you will probably get great treatment because hospitals tend to put the money on the medical
side first and the amenities second but just the impression or a perceived negative feature can begin to
cause some doubt among patients who are in the process of making a choice for their healthcare.
Reason #4: No Remote Control (It’s the Technology)
In the early days of TV there were no remote controls because you generally left the TV on one channel
and watched everything including the commercials. Today, with so many channel choices available to
homes via cable and satellite TV a remote control is a necessity. Remotes are a big problem for hospitals
because they can be damaged or stolen. They can also be an issue with infection control so hospitals rely
on pillow speaker manufacturers to provide a “hospital grade” device that can communicate with the
nurse, turn off the lights, change the channel, provide audio at the bedside and also be disinfected.
Early versions of pillow speakers were terrible because “channel selection” was not allowed. You pressed
a toggle button and the channels rotated up the dial until the TV turned off, then back on and continued to
rotate through the channels. Later versions provided both up and down channel movement and avoided
turning the set off and on. Newer versions provide keypads so individual channels can be selected rather
than doing the channel up/channel down process but they are not as user friendly as many remotes
because of their size and the fact that they are tethered to the bed.
As a general rule the audio quality provided by pillow speakers is below average because the speaker is so
small. Not all Pillow Speakers have poor audio but they certainly don’t rival Surround Sound Systems for
robustness and clarity. They are especially bad if you have visitors. Trying to hear the audio from a
pillow speaker rather than the TV speakers can be very difficult. The TV speakers would provide better
sound quality but they are usually deactivated when a pillow speaker is used to keep the sound in the
room and out of the hallway.
Viewing suffers a little because somewhere in the continuum of technology time someone decided that the
19” TV was the ideal size for hospitals and school classrooms alike. 19” TV’s are great if you are within
about 6 feet but when you are farther away from the screen your ability to clearly see is not very good.
This was not always the case because up until a few years ago TV networks and broadcasters didn’t rely
as heavily on graphics as they do today. Now it seems every channel is running a crawl or graphic on the
lower third of the picture and this makes the 19” screen worse for the viewer because the wording is small
and very hard to read.
Not much can be done about the pillow speaker. It’s a necessary evil that will always be there unless
hospitals migrate to personal TV’s which hang over the bed. The problem with 19” TV’s can be improved
dramatically as hospitals change these out for new flat panels that offer more screen space. It’s important
that screen size be addressed and hospitals install screens that allow patients to be able to read the
graphics that are displayed as part of news shows and network promotions. The other key feature
hospitals can provide to overcome the problem with television technology in the patient room is to offer a
wide range of channels that includes multiple news and sports channels to give patients choices similar to
what they have at home…because that’s what they expect.
Reason #3: The CEO’s Spouse Doesn’t Have To Watch It
This is meant to be “tongue in cheek” but may resonate with some hospitals. How good is the picture
quality and channel line-up in your hospital? Is the picture crystal clear on all channels? Are all channels
visible or do you have some channels that just drop out periodically? How good is the channel line-up?
Do you offer local off-air channels, basic cable, expanded cable or more services?
Most hospitals followed the early hotel model for TV channels which was “the fewer the better”. Hotels
had an advantage in that they were also providing pay-per-view movies. In the beginning these were
considered a novelty and the buy rates in hotels were quite good. Hospitals tried this in several iterations
including premium channels, movie channels and pay-per-view but these “pay” models never really
caught on broadly.
Today’s patient expects their hospital TV to be similar in quality to what they have in their homes but
don’t expect to pay for it or see an extra charge on their hospital bill.
If you are a hospital administrator, what would your spouse or child say about your TV system if they
stayed in your hospital for three full days?
Reason #2: Hospital TV Does Not Produce Revenue
With healthcare costs continuing to rise at a steady clip a hospital needs revenue and the TV system
generally does not produce revenue like an MRI machine. Back in the day, the patient paid to watch TV
and the "pink ladys", candy stripers or a TV vendor would visit their room each day to collect the $3 or $5
necessary to keep the morning soap operas and game shows on.
The practice of renting the TV is still done in some areas of the country but for the most part patients
expect cable TV to be part of the room. Some vendors and hospitals have tried adding premium TV
channels, pay-per-view movies and movie channels but these have only had limited success. Patients
don’t want to pay for a movie if half-way through the nurse takes them out for a test or procedure. The
other problem with pay-per-view is collecting the money. Stories abound of vendors trying to collect
movie fees and the patient denies ever ordering the movie. This causes collection issues and eventually
customer service/patient relation problems. As a result, many hospitals that tried the premium tier and
pay-per-view movie programs eventually abandoned it.
Reason #1: Lack of Ownership
In many hospitals the TV System has no owner. There is no designated person whose primary job
description is to be responsible for maintenance and ongoing upgrades of the cable system, TV’s, channel
lineup and business strategy (yes, business strategy) for the TV system. As a general rule the only
ongoing management is on the technical aspects of the system and these are usually assigned to a
subcontractor or off-site technician. In some cases the TV System has been transferred to IT and most IT
managers don’t really want the added responsibility. The end result, there is no one in the organization
who fights for the TV system in budget meetings, makes recommendations or maps out a strategic plan to
maximize the system to benefit the hospital and fulfill the patients’ entertainment and informational
needs. This makes it easy for the system to disappear from Administration’s radar screen and gradually
become a patient irritation rather than a tool to foster better patient relationships.
Hospital TV: The New Marketing Opportunity
If your TV system is reflected in any or all of the five reasons we mentioned in this article or you believe
your hospital is missing an opportunity with your TV system then please download our article “How To
Make Your Hospital TV System a Revenue Positive Asset” for a list of ideas you can implement to capitalize
on this underappreciated asset.
About Synergy Broadcast Systems
Synergy Broadcast Systems was established in 1987 and is located in Dallas, TX. The company provides
turnkey video automation solutions for healthcare organiztions that include video on demand patient
education systems, scheduled patient education channels, Welcome Channels, Relaxation Channels,
Digital Signage and related solutions to help hospitals monetize their hospital TV system.
For more information please give us a call or visit us online at the following locations:
Synergy Broadcast Systems
16115 Dooley Road Addison, TX 75001