Surgery Through Social Media: How Hospitals Are Broadcasting the Secrets of the Operating Room

Jul 24, 2013 by

This entry was written by , one of the OxonDigital members. The author's views below are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of OxonDigital.
Surgery Through Social Media: How Hospitals Are Broadcasting the Secrets of the Operating Room

You may think you are creative in the way you use social media, but the doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann are about to prove you wrong.

I’m sure you can bring countless bizarre stories of people sharing snippets of their private life on Twitter.  It feels like the boundaries disappeared long ago as people are feeling free to share absolutely anything. But how much is it polite to reveal?

“Doctor, could you please stop tweeting during surgery?”

By now everyone should have heard of UCLA Health, who on the 23rd of May 2013 posted through their Twitter account @UCLAnewsroom the first ever Vine video showing not only live brain surgery, but also a patient having it done while… playing a guitar. Yes, you heard that right.

Man playing banjo while having brain surgery.

UCLA Health may be not the first hospital which performed live-tweeting from a surgery, as back in February 2012 the Houston-based Memorial Hermann Hospital exposed to the public the jaw-dropping process of an open heart surgery using Twitter.

This first ever social networking broadcast became an international phenomenon, which in the end was watched by more than 235,000 people and the hospital gained 7,000 new Twitter followers. But the hospital has made another stamp on social media history this year in February by live-tweeting a childbirth. The moment when the baby boy was delivered by cesarean section supported by very graphic imagery, was watched by 72,000 people from 60 countries on Twitter, while an additional 11,000 viewed it in another format!

DVT: Deep Vine Transmission

Doctors from UCLA Health managed to turn their 500th deep brain stimulation operation into the world’s first live-Vined brain surgery on patient, Brad Carter. As they described: “Not everyone gets to experience a surgery, and more specifically an awake brain surgery,” as doctor Dr. Nader Pouratian says: “I thought it was a great opportunity to share with the world.” By using tools like Vine and Instagram, the doctors wanted to raise awareness and reduce fears about procedures, which can help in treating Parkinson’s disease and tremors.

The public was invited to watch the 6 hour procedure and follow live updates on different social channels turning an operating room into a show room.

According to Tyler Haney, the vice president of digital marketing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, we may be able to see this trend of using social media in the medical industry growing, as “statistics found that 57 percent of people saying a social media connection would have a “strong impact” on their decision to seek treatment at a given hospital”. Some clinics offer question-and-answer sessions on specific topics during live surgery, in order to provide additional knowledge to enlighten the public with the needed knowledge. This new situation is also raising the need to create positions for those who are responsible for broadcasting and creating this sort of content. This means that having a social media manager in the hospital will be as important as it is for any other business.

As Lee Aase from The Mayo Clinic points: “People are taking their social network connections with them wherever they go and we certainly are seeing building interest in this,” he said.

Saving Lives Through Social Media

Maybe the doctors are right? If people live on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, maybe these ways could be found as the most effective in order to save others’ lives and raise awareness? Lets just hope they won’t get too carried away with exposing a little too much like the National Zoo, who bombarded Twitter with live updates from panda insemination.

The question is, would you let such a private moment go public and viral in the name of welfare for humanity?

Kasia works as a Digital Account Executive at marketing & design agency, mark-making*. Her main love and role is in social media, but has a passion for everything digital and creative. Follow Kasia on Google+.

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