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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