NEW YORK — For many parents-to-be, the excitement and nervousness is often difficult to contain. For Kyle Piechucki, the wait was decidedly boring.
Piechucki, now a father of two who lives in Oyster Bay, N.Y., is no deadbeat — he was ecstatic over the births of each of his children but simply grew tired of interminable waits at doctors' offices. The boredom led Piechucki, 35, to develop a computer for those trapped in the purgatory of the waiting room.
His thin, handheld devices join a parade of efforts aimed at turning once-fallow minutes in the waiting room into productive time for patients and, of course, advertisers. The touch-screen tablets rely on wireless Internet connections to deliver basic information about medical conditions and treatments, as well as Internet access.
Advertising in doctors' offices isn't new, of course, but thanks to technology, it's becoming increasingly targeted at individual patients. The thinking goes that bored or curious patients will be eager for fresh alternatives to the waiting room doldrums.
"People are frustrated with waiting. They're bored. They don't want to pick up a stale magazine," said Piechucki, who started distributing the computers through his company, InfoSlate, last year. InfoSlate has placed more than 250 devices in doctors' offices in several states. By year-end he expects to have about 800 tablets in operation, and he expects to break even by early 2009.
Smaller and cheaper computers are making it easier for companies to reach individual patients. Piechucki contends patients are drawn to InfoSlate not just because they can use the computers to complete medical histories and questionnaires, but also to check e-mail and surf the Internet. Doctors also can customize the devices to offer information such as physician biographies and office policies.
While doctors might be wary of the idea of turning a waiting room into a scaled-down Kinko's, InfoSlate doesn't charge for the services and instead draws revenue from advertising.
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," he said.
Piechucki said the company's handheld units don't overwhelm users with ads, and the company doesn't 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."