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Wednesday, May 9th 2012

Livetweeting Surgery

One of the big things the use of social media in medicine is supposed to do is help diminish the information disparity between providers and patients. Although knowledge asymmetry is present in many fields perhaps nowhere is it as large as in medicine. If you’ve never been in a surgery I can do all I can to explain it in an informed consent process but perhaps hearing about it, seeing it in real time.

That said I though the novelty of using social media during surgery would’ve died down by now. As well as its use. Its not like the social media observer experience has been widely adopted by patients. I’ve never run across a patient in practice whose referenced having used social media to experience surgery as part of their information gathering process. Not that I think the effort is fruitless but the whole ‘live’ experience is overstated. In effect these livetweets of surgery are a publicity stunt.

And yet, here we are in Houston with a proposed first use of Youtube and Pintrest in a livetweeting of a brain surgery.

“What will come out of this is a detailed, real-time sequence of what happens in a brain surgery through all the stages from preparation, to shaving the hair, to making the incision, to draping,” Dr. Kim says. “People are very anxious and want to know what goes on in a brain surgery like this.”

While Dr. Kim (left) works in the operating room, a team outside the room will work the social platforms. A brain tumor specialist will be present to help answer questions from the digital audience via Twitter. But the operation will expand to other social networks too.

Video clips from inside the operating room will be posted to YouTube, and photos shared on Pinterest. Storify compilations will recap each hour of the broadcast.

A big enough story to prompt Mashable’s attention and CNN and Medgadet.

The web and social media are a great source of information for patients and families of all types, including those facing surgery. I applaud providers and hospitals and others for putting such information out there and using social media. The live presentation of that information though and, especially, the hype surrounding such seems overdone. Five years from now we will neither be giving fanfare to livetweets of surgery nor will be doing it on a regular basis. In some respects it seems a waste of resources in using social media and the internet to distribute information.

If you want to tune in though the livetweet begins today at 9am central time and can be found @houstonhospital.