Twitter has problems in the operating room

Twitter has been making its way into the operating room.

I recently wrote about it, saying, “It’s an efficient, and effective, way to transmit medical findings instantly, and to a wide audience.” But patient privacy concerns remain, given the relative ease it takes to Tweet news.

Cardiologist Wes Fisher, however, isn’t convinced. He notes that when a hospital representative is sitting in the corner of the operating room providing live updates, “they risk appearing more concerned about their marketing efforts than the patient’s well-being.”

And what happens when a complication arises? “Would the world be updated?” asks Dr. Wes. “What about the family watching the tweets on television as a doctor returns to explain what really happened during the procedure?”

Twitter has value in educating other health professionals about a procedure. Asking the surgical team questions intra-op can be useful. Of course, the patient’s family also can be dynamically updated as the surgery happens — which may not always be a good thing if things go awry.

Hospitals are still exploring the potential value of Twitter. The allure of using it as a marketing tool is definitely there, and it’s a line that’s sometimes blurred.

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  • Bob Oakley

    This is a question we wrestle with every day. How do you inform without sensationalizing? How do you raise awareness and promote your hospitals brand and capabilities without debasing the patient, surgeons and your institution with hucksterism?

    I don’t know if it’s a question of should, but how. Twitter is so accessible, so inexpensive, and so immediate that we often see scenarios where organizations get wrapped up in the possibilities that they don’t plan it appropriately. For instance, what’s the purpose – why are you tweeting? Who are you doing it for? Who should be tweeting (for me – if it’s tweeting the details of a surgery – then only medical staff should be doing it, and then from the perspective of their role) – and why play-by-play. This list goes on and on.

    In some ways tweeting from the OR suffers from the same ills as the platform itself – it’s so accessible that there is a lot of low value noise while folks try to figure out how to use the tool appropriately. In the meantime – unfortunately – we will see many more examples of poor planning, poor judgment, and poor execution than those success stories that drive the adoption.

  • Dan Morris

    I’m stunned that hospitals are considering “tweeting” from inside the operating room. I’m not sure that makes any sense, even though I tweeted the live birth of my last child and got hundreds of comments shortly thereafter.

    Used as a marketing tool hospitals should be concerned less about any particular patient and more about becoming the local expert in their field. It makes sense to tweet “case studies” to show community members what you can do. It makes sense to tweet “success stories”, hospital offerings, and information about their dedicated staff. But to tweet to world “James Markel’s liver has just been removed and we’re stitching him up now” – that doesn’t sound like an effective marketing campaign.

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