Twittering from a surgery in OR to a medical audience in another city

One of the ways that Twitter is used is as a forum to post questions where you can often get surprisingly rapid, informed responses.  So when I read that Twitter was used in an operating room, I hoped it wasn’t to ask what to do with a certain artery.

In fact, the Twitter feed #TWOR accompanied a live Detroit video broadcast to a medical conference in Las Vegas.   The real-life operation was a robotic cystectomy and lymph node dissection on an unidentifiable male.  A photo shows the doc’s at the keyboard with the operation in the background (wonder how they had to disinfect the laptop?).

The medical audience and the Twitter public could ask questions as the doctors posted updates about how the surgery was going.

I love that they thought of this idea, and I love that they decided to use publicly-accessible Twitter rather than an application that locked participation to the Vegas audience only.   Patient education and patient-centredness are still so very weak, and I think the efforts – and the approvals – to take this step were important.

An interesting post by Shel Israel about this world first live-Tweeted surgery includes excerpts from an interview he did with one of the Twitter doctors who was in the OR.

There was one reflective and interesting comment from the doctor when he discussed potential uses for Twitter in medicine:

I’m speaking as a person here and not a hospital employee, in trying and frightening times I’d want to feel like I had any sort of additional connection to my doctor or hospital that I could. A tool like Twitter can provide another touch point.

Twittering is one step towards global education and collaboration but must be done carefully so as to avoid mis-information.

I’m curious whether the group discussed how Twitter would be handled in the unusual event that this surgery took a turn for the worse.  If the patient unexpectedly got into real trouble, was the plan to continue with updates?

Having a live audience is intriguing – I wonder what other potential teaching or conference applications could there be for Twitter, beyond the scope of Skype conferencing and the like?

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