Live-tweeting a Surgery: Genius Marketing Strategy or Risky?

The healthcare industry has seen a huge increase in consumers using social media to find health information and advice. According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of Internet users have looked online for information about health topics. Moreover, data published by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery suggests that 42% of patients receive most plastic surgery information from social media.

So, how are practitioners leveraging these findings to their advantage?

More and more healthcare organizations are getting creative in using social media to reach patients.

How “creative” would you get using social media for your practice?

In 2009, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit performed one of the first ever “live-tweeted” surgeries, posting to Twitter periodically throughout a robotic cancer surgery. Using the hashtag #TWOR to make tweets easy to track, the doctors took turns describing in 140 characters or less the steps of the procedure.

Henry Ford Hospital’s first live-tweet was for educational purposes, directed at 450 medical professionals attending a robotic surgery conference, but as tweets spread like wildfire, traditional media inevitably picked up the story. The hospital’s reputation was suddenly enhanced, as more patients trusted the hospital’s cutting-edge approach, and more doctors wanted to work there.

Since, many hospitals and practitioners have live-tweeted procedures and surgeries, but why?

The unintended outcome of Henry Ford Hospital’s bold move has made live-tweeting a fairly popular marketing strategy used by hospitals and healthcare practices.

The innovative approach shows that doctors are confident in their work and that hospitals embrace the latest technology. The fact that doctors are willing to open their operating room to the world establishes credibility and trust.

We recently tuned into the first ever live-tweeted open heart surgery performed by Memorial Hermann Hospital, archived on their website.

The surgeons tweeted pictures, videos and commentary throughout the procedure.

Not only did we pay close attention to tweets from the surgeons themselves, but also to what followers were saying in response.

Followers were very intrigued, impressed and engaged. They asked questions, and the surgeons tweeted back with answers.

But, is this a risky marketing strategy?

Although it’s necessary for doctors to get a patients consent before broadcasting any type of procedure, many skeptics feel live-tweeting violates patient privacy. In addition, many wonder: What if something goes wrong, is it broadcasted for the world to see? And, is it distracting and dangerous to live-tweet a surgery?

Although we don’t have the answers to these questions, we think live-tweeting is definitely an innovative marketing strategy. It should be practiced with caution, only by very experienced healthcare professionals. Furthermore, like any marketing strategy, much planning and research should be put in before implementation.

What do you think? We want your opinions!

Would you ever live-tweet a procedure or surgery. If so, what procedures would you feel comfortable tweeting? If not, tell is why!

Still haven’t launched a Twitter account?

Contact us to get your practice started with social networking!

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