As TVs become smarter and healthcare becomes more intimate with our at home lives, we are starting to experience the ultimate consumer health experience: health entertainment.
Looking towards Samsung’s bold healthcare strategy, which now includes health monitoring for using “ remote photoplethysmography (rPPG), an intelligent computer vision technology that assesses vital signs by detecting changes in facial skin color caused by heartbeats” as well as their partnership with a virtual care provider HealthTap, the infrastructure is in place for healthcare to be as easy as turning on the evening news or watching Sunday night football.
Yet even with better technology and digital services, will audiences use their favorite silver screen as a tool for better health? Will these health services delivered through our TVs even be used?
That’s the tricky thing about consumer health. We don’t want to engage with anything too clinical or pathologizing. We don’t want to be reminded of all the things “wrong” with us, even if it impacts our health and quality of life. The US Healthcare system is punitive and alienating, any whiff of “you are a bad patient” will send us running to the hills.
But we do engage with these topics in one unusual place: entertainment.
From The Last of Us’s plausible pandemic plot to Grey’s Anatomy’s impact on breast cancer screenings, entertainment has been able to engage audiences through compelling storytelling and relatable characters. From must-see medical and sci-fi dramas to our favorite characters navigating their own health plot lines, television programming has a unique ability to raise awareness of health issues and even induce action. But now, with smart TVs that offer health monitoring and virtual care, it’s possible that our viewing habits can transform into health habits.
Entertainment that Heals
TVs with health capabilities can only really make a difference if they are paired with our favorite stories. Imagine watching Ted Lasso, a show lauded for its approach to mental health, and in particular, the characters’ challenges with therapy. While watching the episode, you’ve enabled your Samsung Neo QLED’s camera to monitor your vitals. As the show progresses, your heart rate increases, reflecting the emotions and conflicts your favorite character goes through that feel oddly familiar to your own. In one scene, Ted is experiencing a panic attack. You recognize his state as something you may have experienced before. The episode ends and before the credits rolls, a pop up from the TV queries “your stress index levels were elevated, would you like to speak to a healthcare professional?” Right in the moment when your body is responding to your favorite character’s challenge, an option to access care is readily available. With a click, you are connected to a health professional and grant them access to your vitals from the TV’s health monitoring. From watching Ted Lasso to meeting with a healthcare professional, your viewing habits have just been transformed into care. You’ve just experienced health entertainment.
This is just one hypothetical scenario of how TV entertainment can be a point of care. Another opportunity is to pair the TV’s health monitoring capabilities with video games, with some now being granted FDA approval for treatment of conditions. Being able to monitor your vitals while playing your favorite game can help capture more health data, tailoring care to suit your needs. How cool would it be if your virtual care doctor were able to analyze your playtime vitals and prescribe a video game to improve your health?
Or better yet, as smart TVs advance and health monitoring is expanded to track health behaviors, we can watch TV shows or play video games that increase our physical activity, regulate our emotions, or even quit smoking.
With all these health possibilities, we can’t lose track of the most important ingredient: storytelling.
Without a great story, our attention will quickly drift elsewhere.
Even with great hardware and services, we won’t engage with health unless it’s a story we want to be a part of.
Ari Mostov is an award-winning entertainment producer and healthcare narrative strategist. She brings her entertainment expertise to healthcare to create a new narrative for health. Learn more at www.wellplay.world