It's 4:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday afternoon and Hartford Hospital Dr. Marc D. Eisen nervously sits in a director's chair asking questions about camera angles, two-second delays, and a proper on-screen introduction.
Eisen, a neurotologist who runs the hospital's Hearing & Balance Center, isn't interacting with patients or in his typical medical office setting. Instead he's sitting in a video studio talking to hospital communications director Rebecca Stewart. The former TV personality is prepping him for an interview later that night on WFSB Ch. 3, where he'll discuss issues related to hearing loss.
"The key is to look directly into the camera," Stewart, a former Fox 61 TV anchor, tells Eisen, who is about to make his first on-air appearance. "If you are looking all around, you don't look like an expert.
"And don't forget to smile when they introduce you," Stewart added.
Eisen is getting a crash course on being an on-air personality in a new multimedia video studio that the hospital recently opened inside its main campus on Seymour Street. The studio allows the medical center's surgeons and physicians to communicate with local, national and even international TV networks live or on tape.
The $75,000 studio, which was financed through a fundraising campaign by the medical staff, isn't a typical investment made by a hospital. In fact, the only other medical center in Connecticut to have one is the UConn Health Center.
So what's the purpose? Simply put, it's about raising the profile of the hospital as it tries to catapult itself into the top tier of medical centers in the country.
"The goal is to make our experts as accessible as possible," said Stewart, who championed the idea.
Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford Hospital's CEO, said the video studio fits in with the hospital's vision of becoming a destination medical center because it helps bring more attention to the capabilities of the hospital and its staff.
He said the hospital has world-class doctors who have penned scientific studies and made surgical advances so getting their stories out to a national audience is important, especially when the hospital is competing on a worldwide scale for talent.
And as the hospital gets more national attention, it has a better chance of being asked to participate in research opportunities that will bring clinical trials and the latest surgical techniques and devices to the Hartford market first.
"Creating awareness for our programs, services, and doctors helps us recruit physicians," Flaks said. "It gives our people more of a national profile."
The hospital's video production technology is part of a service provided by Massachusetts-based VideoLink Inc., whose product ReadyCam, is a remotely-operated studio that can be installed in any office or conference room.
The hospital's 16-by-20 square foot studio is equipped with a background, lighting, a director's chair and camera, which is capable of transmitting HD video directly to any network around the world. It can also be used to create video for internal and external communications.
Video production is taken care of offsite by VideoLink, so the hospital doesn't have to invest in a video staff.
Prior to having its own video studio, Stewart said, the hospital would have to send its experts to local TV stations, ESPN, or even New York in order to get them in front of a camera.
That was inefficient, and sometimes caused them to miss out on opportunities to get their experts on-air for breaking news stories related to health care.
That's no longer a problem.
"If a story breaks, our people are on standby and ready to provide information to the community," Stewart said. "No hospital has been able to do that."
Hartford Hospital's medical staff bought into the idea of a video studio, Stewart said, and even raised the funds to pay for it. It gives doctors the added benefit of presenting at conferences they may not be able to attend in person.
The next challenge for Stewart will be getting local and national networks to take notice of the hospital's medical staff.
Stewart said the hospital already has some connections with local stations like WFSB, where the hospital sponsors a weekly segment called "Medical Rounds," in which one of its experts is featured on a two-minute segment to discuss various health topics.
That was the show Eisen prepped for and eventually went on in late April.
The hospital has had some national exposure. Dr. Paul Thompson, who leads Hartford's cardiology department, spoke with Diane Sawyer of ABC World News last summer about new exercise guidelines.
It's that type of attention, Flaks said, that builds the Hartford Hospital brand.
"Tonight, when you are home watching the MSNBC national broadcast and they are speaking to a leading expert on a given medical staff, why shouldn't they be from Hartford Hospital," Flaks said. "We believe they should be."