The fury of modern medicine reached new heights this week. And, it happened in my home city, best known for its two-minute horse race, baseball bats, and donut bacon cheeseburgers.
It was both the surgery and its accompanying social media cheerleading that made the news. Hand surgeons at Jewish Hospital performed only the third double hand transplant to date in the US. Adding to the novelty of the surgery was the broadcasting of live twitter updates from the OR.
This pushing of the envelope of both medical innovation and social media was remarkable for many reasons. First, it was not in Boston, Rochester, MN or New York. This is a relief, don’t you think? Secondly, it took almost a day (17.5 hours) to complete. They started surgery at 7 PM. Thirdly, the micro-surgery of connecting arteries, veins, tendons and nerves is off-the charts impressive. Hopefully, the biology of rejection will not foil such spectacular surgical work.
Finally, as if all this wizardry was not enough, Jewish Hospital, with its indelible entrepreneurial spirit, upped the ante by providing live twitter updates. Can you imagine the pre-surgical boardroom discussion?
Marketing Executive to Surgeons: “Yes your proposed surgery is cool indeed, but we need more…Let’s make it even glitzier by spooling up all of social media, and, let’s jab the privacy hawks, too… Yes, live twitter updates it is. You guys aren’t superstitious are you? You have done plenty of 17 hour double hand transplants, right? We must have a few young surgical fellows who can type the carefully crafted live updates.”
As a Louisvillian, it is hard not to cheer when your city’s health care system is in the world’s spotlight. And as a fellow doctor, the largeness of these surgeon’s accomplishments provides a surge of pride in our medical profession.
On the other hand though, the cynic in me sees the live tweeting of such surgical glitz as shameless self-promotion. In bike racing, such phenomenon would be termed, did you see me-isms.
But the twitter-ers might argue that their primary goal was to educate the public for the greater good. Yep, I am with you there. Aw shucks. Thanks for clarifying your goals.
In reality, if public education for the greater good was Jewish Hospital’s aim, tweeting the perils of smoking, over-eating and not moving would be far more apropos, especially in our dreadfully unhealthy state. Jewish Hospital twitter updates that would help our citizens more than live hand transplant updates might go something like this:
- “Hey @KYschoolprincipal… u out there…chocolate milk is not a healthy drink for children…no matter what the dairy lobby says.”
- “Hey @KYsemi-driver…WAKE-UP… it’s the middle of the day…wear your cpap mask…please.”
- “You out there…@KYphlegm…Hello…Despite what was said on our local public radio today, no amount of smoking is healthy”
- “Hey @KYbiggestloser… News flash on exercise…It is ok to exercise every day that you eat!”
Finally, one can only hope they did a “time-out.” And surely their H+P was up to date. If not, there will be letters sent, audits made, and quality marks to improve.
No, let’s not live tweet from the OR, or EP lab, or any procedure room. Let’s focus on the task at hand, rather than the self-promotion, as the did-you-see-me(s) can wait until after the show.