A Case for Medical Animation

It’s no secret that giving patients agency in their own healthcare education and decisions results in better patient satisfaction with fewer unnecessary readmissions. 1

Patient-to-doctor communication is a key element in effective health literacy efforts. According to Helen Osborne, “Health literacy happens when patients and providers each communicate in ways the other can understand.” 2

Medical animations have proven to be an effective tool to bridge the communication gap between doctors and patients. A study from 2009 showed that patients of all health literacy levels were more comfortable receiving information on medical documents from animated avatars. 3

In the study, three groups of patients were presented with consent documents. The first group was left alone to determine the documents on their own. The second group had a doctor explain their paperwork. The final group used a computer-animated avatar to learn about their consent papers.

Study authors concluded that the computer animated explanation of the consent document perform as well as or better than the provider explanation:

Participants [reported] higher levels of satisfaction with the consent process and greater likelihood to sign the consent document when it was explained by the computer agent, compared to either explanation by a human or self study. In addition, explanation by the computer agent led to the greatest comprehension of the document…for those with adequate levels of health literacy.

One of the most interesting parts of the study was the feedback from patients on the delivery they preferred. Animated explanations of the documents made patients feel more comfortable. When they didn’t understand, they didn’t have the embarrassment of asking a provider for further explanation, but could watch the animation again to make sure they understood the forms.

Unlike with busy providers, patients had no time constraints and didn’t feel rushed with the animation. The most effective combination was initial explanation with the animation and a follow-up “teach-back” session with a provider.

Nucleus Medical Media is forging the same model with Gwinnett Medical Center. We created a discharge animation website for their doctors and nurses to use at the point of care to explain at-home care like removing a catheter, emptying a drain, and walking with crutches.


Gwinnett providers are playing the animations for patients and their caretakers, going through the discharge instructions with them, and then giving them a URL to reference the video again at home.

Nurses are already seeing an improvement in patient care. Nurse Pam Bear says that the combination of animations and teach back sessions have made the nurses’ jobs easier at Gwinnett. Lynne Sycamore, Patient & Family Education Coordinator for Gwinnett Medical Center is pleased with their ability to serve patients and continue the care even when patients have gone home:

Often when patients leave our facility, they are still under a little bit if the effects of anesthesia or they may be on pain meds. If your understanding and field of vision is narrowed, you may not remember everything you’re being told. We like that patients can go back to our website at home and watch the animation again.

Nucleus Medial Media animations are created with the patient in mind. Written at a 5th grade reading level, our 3D medical animations are easy to comprehend. Pair that with stunning, cinematic visuals, and you’ve got a recipe for effective patient education.

Nucleus animations are also translated to multiple languages. Gwinnett’s discharge animation site, for example, has three options for viewers: English, Spanish, and Korean.

Animation and video seem to be the way of the future for hospitals. More health systems are including it in their websites and social media. Point of care is the obvious next step!

Nucleus Medical Media is a health literacy firm that produces cinematic 3D medical animations and brilliant medical illustrations for use in social media and hospital website marketing, patient education, and more! Contact Nucleus today to learn how patient education materials can enhance your hospital’s marketing strategy.


1: “Recognizing an Opinion: Findings From the IOM Evidence Communication Innovation Collaborative.” William D. Novelli, MA; George C. Halvorson; John Santa, MD, MPH; JAMA. 2012; 308(15):1531-1532.

2: “Health Literacy: How Visuals Can Help Tell the Healthcare Story.” Helen Osborne; Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine; 2006; 29(1): 28-32.

3: “Using Computer Agents to Explain Medical Documents to Patients with Low Health Literacy.” Timothy W. Bickmore; Laura M. Pfiefer; Michael K. Paasche-Orlow; Patient Educ Couns. 2009; 75(3): 315-320