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Humor gets the attention of doctors


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Anyone who has worked with physicians for any length of time knows that they can have a wicked sense of humor – it comes with the territory when you’re making decisions that literally affect patients’ lives.

A game run by researchers from eight Boston-area hospitals tapped into this sense of humor to boost the outcomes for the patients of the physicians and nurses who participated in the email-based game. The use of humor was key to ensure engagement and get the results that were published in the journal, Circulation.

That’s the goal, says Dr. B. Price Kerfoot, a surgeon at the VA Boston Healthcare System and an instigator of the game. He and his compadres spent late nights on iStock, gleaning photos that would get people to keep opening the game’s emails. “You don’t have to give root canals to get people to do it,” Kerfoot tells Shots. “We hear all the time that people look forward to the next question.”


The study used humor to get engagement but was actually testing the pedagogical concept of “spaced education” and it got results. The next test is planned for diabetes patients and looks like it will be just as interesting. You can test out the concept at the company Harvard started, Qstream.

The learning here is that humor can get attention, and does not detract from the seriousness of the content when framed in the right context. Healthcare marketers should take note, we could improve engagement.

Source: National Public Radio

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