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Breaking into video

August 2011

Published in the August 2011 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

YOU KNOW THE SCENARIO WELL: An ED physician is on the phone asking you to take another admission, but you’re up to your eyeballs in patients. When you ask for some basic information about the patient, all you get from the ED physician are vague answers.

Now take that scenario and have the dialogue recited by cartoon bears speaking in computer-generated voices, and you’ve got the essence of an Xtranormal Medical Video. The hysterical videos highlight the absurd situations that hospitalists encounter in daily practice.

With titles like Hospitalist vs. ER, Hospitalist vs. Night Nurse, RN, and Hospitalist vs. Neurologist, the videos get at the adversarial relationship that can exist between health care professionals, dealing in subtleties that only insiders will understand. Consider the following line, delivered by the ED physician in the Hospitalist vs. ER video:

"I’m busy Facebooking and do not have time to evaluate your patient, but my nurses tell me the patient looks sick. I can see him from my desk. I agree. He looks sick."

The videos are the work of a blogger known as the Happy Hospitalist, whose prose has for years focused on the absurdities of medical practice. (Today’s Hospitalist profiled him in August 2008 in "Meet Dr. Happy" at http://bit.ly/rcg3Qx.)

Dr. Happy started making videos a year ago after watching one called Patient Faking Seizure in ER. That video, which he says is one of the best he’s seen, used an online service, www.xtranormal.com. The almost-free service allows users to type in dialogue, then select characters to deliver it.

Dr. Happy says that he gets his ideas from his daily hospitalist practice. "When you’re living it every day," he explains, "it can be pretty entertaining." He typically spends an hour or two coming up with the dialogue, then another two or three hours creating the video online.

As a videographer, he takes general experiences from his hospitalist work and then exaggerates them for comic effect. "I like to take a concept and push it to the extreme," Dr. Happy explains. "The Hospitalist vs. ER gets at the general concept of ‘I don’t know what’s going on.’ "

What do his colleagues, particularly those he’s poking fun at, think of the videos? "They understand it’s all in good fun," Dr. Happy says. "On some videos I mention that it’s hyperbole."

Dr. Happy’s videos, as well as those by other physicians, are online at http://bit.ly/ovuLec.