Social media has transformed the information highway and spurred adaptations across multiple industries and professions. In healthcare, for example, a growing number of providers and facilities are turning to social networks to educate the public about their work.
In 2012, Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston, Texas, provided live text, photos and video of an open heart surgery via Twitter and YouTube. One tweet read: “Dr. Macris opened patient’s chest with knife, bovie, then saw.”
In April 2013, a hospital in England chronicled a hip surgery with live tweets and photos posted on Twitter and video snippets on Vine, the social media network’s new video-sharing service. According to a statement by Spire Bushey Hospital, the patient agreed to the live broadcast “to provide an educational opportunity for the public and help people understand the details of this complex surgery.”
A public relations firm worked with Spire Bushey on the social media campaign, which was targeted at medical professionals and students, as well as individuals considering treatment for the same condition. The campaign was credited with bringing the hospital about 50 new followers on Twitter.
At the University of California-Los Angeles in May 2013, Vine and the photo-sharing site Instagram were used to document the implanting of a brain pacemaker, a device that counters the effects of tremors and Parkinson’s disease. The patient, who is a musician, was asked to play a guitar during the procedure in order to help surgeons position electrodes.
“UCLA live-tweeted the surgery with the hope that it would help alleviate future patients’ fear of the procedure,” according to an article on the university’s website.
A spokeswoman for UCLA Health System told the Los Angeles Times that it was the school’s first live-tweet surgery.
“Many in the public don’t know about this treatment so UCLA Health System thought this would be a good way to get the word out,” said Roxanne Yamaguchi Moster.
Although questions remain about whether such live broadcasts are primarily about public education or about marketing a particular healthcare facility, the use of social media in hospitals and medical centers will likely continue to grow.
In February 2013, Women’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston offered a Twitter feed during the C-section delivery of a baby boy. The hospital estimated that more than 70,000 Twitter users in 60 nations followed the surgery live, with physicians and other staff responding to followers’ questions.
“It’s fascinating to pull back the curtain on the mystery of the OR,” the hospital’s social media manager, Natalie Camarata, told the New York Daily News.