Avoid waiting-room boredom with touch-screen tablets

Patients looking for answers appear to have the time to do some research. InfoSlate estimates about a quarter of those waiting to see a doctor spend more than 30 minutes; users of InfoSlate's computers spend an average of 20 minutes using the devices.

Advertisers are always looking for fresh ways to infiltrate consumers' minds and people who are content or engaged are more likely to be receptive to a message, said Dennis Roche, president of Zoom Media & Marketing in New York.

"When you're sponsoring something compelling the customer will allow you to solicit them with something," said Roche.

While drug makers and other medical companies have long advertised in doctors' offices, the ability to tailor ads to particular patients brings both opportunities and risks, said James Coyle, a professor of marketing and interactive media at Miami University's Farmer School of Business.

Any advertiser would need to tread carefully, he said: "People are hypersensitive about revealing anything, even if it's rather mundane."

Still, the prospect of at attentive patient waiting to see a doctor is appealing to advertisers.

"We've become experts in avoiding the places where we know ads will appear," Coyle said. "If there is an interactive experience that you can participate with individually — maybe there is more likely to be a more genuine conversation."

Piechucki said the company's handheld units don't overwhelm users with ads nor does the company dangle detailed private patient information before hungry advertisers. Still, ads can relate to a topic a patient might be researching.

"They're going to be able to target their message more effectively," he said of advertisers. "An orthopedic office could have stuff about hip surgery, walkers, crutches and exercise equipment."

But Piechucki said he would avoid any exploitation. After surviving stage four thyroid cancer seven years ago he feels a kinship with those facing cancer.

He spent long hours awaiting and undergoing treatments. Anything that brought temporarily relief was welcome, said Piechucki.

"You brought a book and you have a TV but you know in hospital beds it's not like they have 200 channels. It got boring," he said.

The ability to pass time during cancer treatments is its own brand of treatment, he said, adding that he's pleased if he can offer any relief to these patients.

"That's why I feel a very strong connection to the oncology offices we're in. It's getting their minds off things," he said of the patients.

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