Henry Ford Hospital Surgeons Twitter Surgery As Outreach & Teaching

You may have already heard the buzz about this, since it is in a lot of news venues.

Twitter: Henry Ford Twitters Surgery
CNN: Surgeons send ‘tweets’ from operating room: www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/02/17/twitter.surgery/

Since it is a local group doing this, I wanted to be sure to bring it to the attention of the University of Michigan community. Ten days ago a surgical team at Henry Ford Hospital twittered a surgery. (More about Twitter.) The first time a surgery was twittered it was done by the patient who was under local anesthesia for the procedure on his legs. (More about the original twittered surgeries.)

That was quite fascinating. Reactions to that suggested the idea that twittering (or tweeting) surgery might serve as yet another way to provide outreach and education about surgical procedures. The docs at Henry Ford took the idea and ran with it. Concept proposed, approved, selected what type of surgery they wanted to educate folks about, Twitter explained to patient and family, authorized by the patient and family, tech accommodations made in the operating theater if needed, protocols proposed … all in a couple months. Wow!

I remember a few years ago when my college-aged daughter developed a fascination with surgical videos broadcast on cable. Luckily, I’m not squeamish, and I do have a professional interest in all things healthcare, but I never did understand why my daughter found this to be high entertainment. I especially did not understand since trying to get her to go to the doctor is almost impossible, and the closest she comes to healthcare is usually autoclaving tattoo needles. From the fact that they actually have surgical videos on cable, my daughter is evidently not the only non-healthcare weirdo who finds some sort twisted thrill in watching random surgical videos.

It is different when people are trying to learn something about the procedure – if they or a family member might be going through this. Surgical videos are a wonderful way to get a better understanding of what might happen, as well as to get used to the idea that people go through this and it is OK, they are fine. So now, if you search YouTube for the word “surgery” you get 55,000 results; if you search Google Video for surgery you find over 68,000 videos; if you search Google for (Surgery OR surgical) Videos YouTube you get 1,300,000 results. Alright, I get the idea. People want to know about surgery, or they want to tell about their surgery.

The drawback of the videos is that for those who are squeamish, well, um, the videos can be a bit graphic, or upsetting. What do you do if something upsets you, or you have questions about what is happening? This is where Twitter comes in. With LiveTweeting the surgery, people in your extended audience can virtually observe the surgery without getting too grossed out, and can ask questions in real time and get answers. This is what happened during the Henry Ford tweeted surgery. Here’s some example tweets.

Are the blood vessels feeding the tumor?
Twitter: Henry Ford Twitters Surgery

branches of the main blood vessels are feeding the tumor, it is important to dissect and clip them
Twitter: Henry Ford Twitters Surgery

Now for that example, Henry Ford’s surgical resident who was doing the twittering was actually answering a question from someone local, also in Detroit. During the surgery, they also responded to questions from:

  • Words_by_Chris in Swansea, UK
  • Cubus in Antwerp
  • TStitt in Redwood City, California
  • TopherAlexander in Chicago
  • SavvyDaddy in Chicago
  • MSpeir in South Carolina.

I don’t know that they could keep up with this if a large group of people got really excited and started asking lots of questions, but you get the idea. Pretty exciting potential, eh? In addition to sending out descriptions via Twitter, they also grabbed video from the Operating Room cameras and pushed it into YouTube.

YouTube: VUI Surgeons (Henry Ford Hospital): http://www.youtube.com/user/VUIsurgeons

Henry Ford Hospital tried this out in January with a bladder surgery. They are doing it again on March 6th. Think about it. Outreach, education, real time engagement with observers around the world, all via social media. Stay tuned.

3 responses to “Henry Ford Hospital Surgeons Twitter Surgery As Outreach & Teaching

  1. Thanks for the article PFA, not a thread I search myself.

    Options for enhancing would be coupling this through a speech to text convertor.

    Head mounted still camera perhaps with blink to shoot. I think still because as opposed to the gross video issue a still sent out linked to a tweet is ten in context. Appropriate context turns gross into interest.


  2. Nice to read this. We also twittered a surgery in Spain less than a month ago, from Hospital Clinico at Madrid.


  3. Cy, thank you for the insightful suggestions. Are you on Twitter? If so, you might want to direct these to Henry Ford Hospital at http://twitter.com/HenryFordNews.

    Alain, I would love to read your twittered surgery. Please send me a message in Twitter and I will follow you? I am there as @pfanderson. Thank you for telling me about it!


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