World-leading Parathyroid Surgeon Discusses Importance of Medical Animation

Physician calls investment in video “one of the most important business decisions we have ever made.”

Jim Norman, MD, is one of the world’s leading experts on parathyroid disease. He and his team perform around 3,400 parathyroid surgeries per year at the Norman Parathyroid Center in Florida.

Dr. Norman is a big believer in using animation to educate his patients. Since 2012, he has used animation one-on-one with his patients, as well as on his YouTube channel and his website, and has seen great results. We sat down with Dr. Norman and asked him a few questions:

Dr. Norman, what made you decide to use custom medical animation for patient education?

Our practice is limited to parathyroid surgery only, but that’s a challenge when 99% of people don’t even know they have parathyroid glands. We operate on things that nobody has ever heard of! Thus, one of the biggest tasks we face is educating patients (and to a lesser degree, physicians) on everything about parathyroid glands and hyperparathyroidism in 5 minutes or less.

To start with the most basic concept—we all have four parathyroid glands, and parathyroid glands are the regulators of calcium metabolism. We had to help them understand the central importance calcium plays into our overall health and how we feel. From there we needed to introduce the concept that one of those little parathyroid glands could become a tumor. The next complex concept to teach was how a small parathyroid gland tumor in the neck can cause terrible problems in distant places throughout the body; with the bones, the heart, the kidneys, the nervous system, etc. It is a novel and complex issue for many people to grasp quickly that a little gland in their neck (that they didn’t know they had) is why they have lost the joy of life and their body is falling apart.

We have been explaining this with pictures and words for years, and have even included videos of me discussing hyperparathyroidism during a lecture. But we needed something more—something that did the teaching for us. Something that made our message clear. We needed a video that followed the development of a parathyroid tumor in the neck: it needed to cover the tumor producing too much parathyroid hormone and releasing calcium out of the bones, as well as following that calcium to other organs of the body and showing how it caused havoc.

You uploaded the animation to YouTube. Why?

We embedded our video on our website ( but we decided to put it on YouTube because it is the number 2 search engine behind Google. Over time, people have become more and more accustomed to learning via videos. YouTube is the world’s repository of videos, and any business that is customer facing should have their videos online.

Can you tell us about the success you’ve had using animation?

We are by far the world’s leaders in parathyroid surgery. A second-rate video would not be helpful—in fact, a poorly done video could have reflected poorly on us as a company and as experts in this field of medicine. The final product from Nucleus has been an overwhelming success. It has been translated into 5 languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Chinese), and each of those videos is the most popular video for the “parathyroid” family of search terms. The extremely well done animation tells a story that allow patients to understand their complex medical problem and proceed with confidence.

Obviously, we are educating hundreds of thousands of patients per year world-wide—and thus helping them with their health issues—without ever meeting them. But when some of these patients do decide to come to Tampa, Florida to have us operate on them, every aspect of the encounter is easier and smoother because they have watched the video and they understand what is going on.

Posted in:Medical Illustration/Animation, Patient Education, Provider Productivity, Social Media, 3d animation, content marketing, health information, health literacy, healthcare, medical animation, parathyroid, Patient Education, patient engagement, patient satisfaction, surgeon, surgery, thyroid, video, video marketing, youtube, youtube marketing

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