Instagram in the OR: Using social media to bring comfort to others

I never thought when making the switch from nursing school student to an advertising major in college that I would have the opportunity to witness an open-heart surgery on a small child. But that is exactly the experience I had last month. BIGEYE had the honor to be asked by our client, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, to produce a video about their cardiology program. As part of that video, our crew was graciously allowed in the operating room to witness an amazing surgical team, lead by Dr. William DeCampli, repair little 3-year-old Emily Stone’s heart.
We literally got to participate in history being made. The hospital broke ground by trying something relatively unheard of in healthcare: using social media to share a live surgical operation with the entire world. The hospital posted images and updates of the surgery every 10 minutes through the photo sharing application Instagram, pushing the updates out via their Twitter and Facebook profiles, as well as their blog. For me, it definitely brought new meaning to a photo app that I primarily use to apply artistic filters to pictures of my food.

The response was overwhelming as the world watched and cheered on little Emily with amazing words of encouragement. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word, to be so openly allowed into a world that is usually very closed off to the public. Pushing the envelope will always bring on a slew of questions: Why did they do this? Does social media go too far? What role can social media play in healthcare? The very nature of social media encourages debate and provides a portal for honest discussions.

Mike Schmidt, director of digital media at Arnold Palmer Hospital, said it best: “Healthcare is behind the rest of the world in being able to tell stories well through social media. There are thousands of amazing things that happen here at the hospital each and every day, and we want to share that with our community.”

Advertising, taglines, slogans and pictures of happy patients all have their place in healthcare. They play a role in communicating to the public a hospital’s message: who they are and what they stand for. But what about showing, not just telling, what really goes on? There may not be anything “pretty” about surgical procedures, but they are real, raw, and honest. We’re talking about humans saving other human’s lives. Arnold Palmer Hospital and Emily’s family were ready to take that leap by sharing this life-saving procedure with the world. The fact is, surgeons and healthcare professionals alike live and breathe this every day, and that’s what has a true impact on their patient’s lives.

Social media is here to stay and will continue to evolve and change. Yes, seeing pictures of a beating heart on your Facebook timeline may not be for everyone, but I do commend the hospital on using a tool that we are all familiar with in a new and interesting way in order to keep people informed of what’s going on behind the curtain. It breaks down barriers and can remove the mystery of the “unknown” for families that may be going through something very scary, hearing their child has  congenital heart disease.

On a very important side note, Emily is doing well. It was a joy to get to know her and her family throughout this process. She’s a brave little girl!

You can see how the story unfolded on the hospitals blog, Illuminate.  Warning: some of the pictures are graphic in nature.

http://myilluminateblog.com/livesurgery

Written by, Laura Adams, BIGEYE Creative Account Manager

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