When patients tweet their own heart attacks

I was called at 4:30 a.m. for a patient with tachycardia in the hospital, and as I logged into my EMR from home, I saw this on Twitter:

In under two hours, there were 15 retweets, 44 “likes,” and 19 comments that appeared on Twitter (so far), most wishing the patient the best, looking forward to pictures of the angiogram, etc.

This is the lovely world of social media, but it also demonstrates his very real limitations of the medium when potential life and death health care issues arise.

Not a single person on Twitter with its myriad of participants rushed to Dr. Rogers’ aid, called an ambulance (tho’ I suppose this depends on who’s “following” Dr. Rogers on Twitter), started an IV, placed him on oxygen, gave him an aspirin, grabbed that EKG, prepped the cath lab, opened Dr. Rogers’ coronary artery, spoke to his family, or held his hand. Social media reassurance, prayers, and good wishes can only go so far.

This is not to say there is not value in those prayers and good wishes. But we should remember that medicine and medical issues are real life, not digital.

And we should never forget the limitations of all of the digital technology in the world when it comes to delivering hands-on medical care to our fellow man, woman, or child. That requires those much-less-interesting real people, real workers, and real professionals (all on call 24/7/365) to help Mr. Rogers through his ordeal.

God speed, Dr. Rogers. I’m sure you’re in the best of hands.

Wes Fisher is a cardiologist who blogs at Dr. Wes.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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