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The Social Surgery Room

The Social Surgery Room

August 22, 2012 0 Comments

Recently, hospitals have been taking social media into the operating rooms. Don’t worry, the actual surgeons are not doing the Tweeting or posting – they use a dedicated social media team for that. But what the surgeons are doing is using social media to educate people with a bird’s eye view of what they do every day.

As innovative as it may seem, we actually started seeing this two years ago when the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit publicized the first ever live-Tweeted medical procedure in robotic cancer surgery. What was the result of the live-Tweeting? The hospital’s reputation was enhanced, and as more patients trusted the hospital’s innovative approach, more healthcare professionals wanted to work there.

Instagram also brought us into the operating room when Michael Schmidt, director of digital media at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children took pictures of three-year-old Emily Stone’s open heart surgery on his iPhone. He then used Twitter and Facebook, as well as the hospitals personal blog to upload the photos every 10 minutes. By using the social platforms real-time, Schmidt created a live timeline of the surgery that caught the attention of 2,500 sets of eyes. During the days that followed, the hospital’s Facebook page received more than 218,000 unique views and had 19,500 engaged users. This social media tactic has brought a significant amount of awareness for the hospitals heart center, while also giving people a behind-the-scenes look at its operating room – a place most often only seen by healthcare professionals

Another great example can be found at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. By using the hashtag, #Mhbrain, the hospital staff posted live social media coverage of a brain tumor resection, designed to remove a tumor to prevent seizures. The hospital utilized YouTube for video clips and Twitter and Pinterest for photos. Why did they decide to do this? Just months earlier the hospital put an open-heart-surgery on social platforms, which was viewed an estimated 125 million times through Twitter, Storify and media coverage! The healthcare industry is quickly learning that social media platforms can be a great resource to educate, engage and raise awareness of life-saving procedures among patients/consumers.

For another great example of a hospital using social media, check out Columbia University’s Department of Surgery’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, Blog and Twitter handle.

These examples demonstrate that social media is beginning to gain acceptance in the usually very private world of medicine. We see this evolution based on the growing numbers of hospitals using social media in the operating room to raise awareness of their practice.

Surgeons agree social media can help to educate patients on what to expect, and, for those who can handle it, it gives an unparalleled inside view into the steps that go into a specific procedure. Publicizing surgery also helps to clarify the complex world of medicine and gives consumers a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. In some ways, this is the ultimate form of unique content. How many times have you been inside an operating room (not getting surgery)? I’d guess none, which makes this type of experience very hard to come by and something that can gain momentum in the social universe.

It is important to note there are a variety of ways in which the use of social media could result in employer liability under HIPAA. We recommended companies extend existing policies to reflect the use of social media and include specific examples to demonstrate what can and cannot be discussed from both personal and professional digital platforms. In the examples provided above, consent was provided by both the patient and/or legal guardian if the patient is considered a minor.

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