Social media resources may be ushering in a new era in life-saving communication tools in the health care industry, as was demonstrated via Twitter by Emory Healthcare.
As the old philosophical question begs, “If a tree falls in the middle of a forest with no one around to hear it, does it really make a sound?”
Or as an Emory Healthcare marketing and social media expert recently asked and received an answer to, “If a critically ill woman in rural south Georgia needed immediate specialized medical care, would anyone more than 150 miles away hear her family member’s desperate “tweets” in time to send a life-saving helicopter?”
The answer to that question was an incredible “yes we did, and sure we can.”
Social media technology has been credited in recent years with everything from reuniting lost friends and loved ones to starting a couple on the path to wedded bliss (or divorce), to even starting an organized nationwide revolution in Egypt. But a recent connection on Twitter starting in rural south Georgia may be yet another first in social media’s rise.
At 11:06 a.m. on April 25, Emory Healthcare Web and Social Media Specialist Morgan Griffith received a “tweet” from Connecticut resident Matthew Browning, who was playing a critical role in helping his wife and family in getting through a crisis situation.
The grandmother of Browning’s wife was suffering from a host of dangerous medical issues, including, most urgently, a ruptured aorta. Being in a highly rural area, no local hospitals were equipped to accept or care for a patient with such complex needs.
Browning immediately took to Twitter and thus began a new journey between patient, concerned family member, a social media manager, and a hospital admissions unit.
“There has existed an inherent conflict between health care and social media for quite some time. Health care is innately private, secure, and confidential, and that makes people worry when coupled with such a fast, open, and uncensored dialogue as the one taking place in the social media space,” said Griffith. “On that incredible Monday, we got a glimpse of the potential these two realms have to be an extremely useful, successful, and potentially life-saving duo. It was a truly moving and powerful experience to be a part of.”
Browning’s first “tweet” read as follows, “@emoryhealthcare (Emory’s Twitter account address) NEED HELP NOW!! Grandma w/ RUPTURED AORTA needs Card Surgeon/OR ASAP, STAT! Can you accept Life Flight NOW!!?”
“While much of our social media is proactive and conversational, when we receive a tweet like Matthew’s, everything changes. We must immediately throw out the process flowcharts, remove all barriers, and act. Instantaneously, things shift into high gear and a number of contacts in a variety of departments are contacted to get the right information as quickly as possible,” said Griffith. “Within minutes, we tweeted back to Matthew, “@MatthewBrowning Matthew: please either call 911 or have your grandma’s doctor call our transfer service to get immediate help at 404-XXX-XXXX.”
At this point, the most important thing was giving Browning information he could act on. When using Twitter, messages can only be 140 characters, so it was critical to include the most necessary information for him to get immediate assistance, explained Griffith.
Four minutes later, at 11:21 a.m., Browning responded, “@emoryhealthcare: We are doing that! She is in small South Georgia hosp right now- but needs MAJOR help- We are calling, thanks!”
Griffith responded “@MatthewBrowning keep us posted & please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help. We’re keeping you both in our thoughts.” One minute later, Browning responded back “@hospitalpolicygrp, @emoryhealthcare: Thank you for your help!” Followed by: “@emoryhealthcare: Look for STAT Transfer from South Georgia, accept her if able and we’ll see you soon. Thanks!”
At 11:41 a.m., the patient was on a helicopter to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
“@emoryhealthcare: Thank you for accepting her. She is on the Life Flight to you now- Bless you all and Thank you!!”
Unfortunately, the patient would not survive her traumatic illness, but, according to both Griffith and Browning, the experience is now a textbook lesson – proving that social media technology and the vast network it has created can allow more than one person to hear the tree falling in an even larger forest; hence, offering new life-saving opportunities not existent just a few short years ago.
“Our dialogue with Matthew on Monday continued on through the day, and not all of the tweets we received or sent are included above, but if that doesn’t show you the power of social media, I don’t know what will,” said Griffith. “It’s true that the same outcome may have taken place if it had not been for social media. But when a life is hanging in the balance and minutes - not hours - make the difference, the risk of ignoring technology such as social media to intervene and save a life is one we’re not willing to take.”
And, of course, the last message from Browning arrived same as the first. “@emoryhealthcare: Thank You for your valiant efforts on behalf of our Grandmother – your team is awesome and their compassion unrivaled- thx“.
The full story of the interaction between Matthew and Emory Healthcare can be found on Emory Healthcare’s blog (http://advancingyourhealth.org), where they have published a two part case study on the story, the second of which was released today:
For more information on Emory Healthcare, visit: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org For more information on Matthew Browning and his role in health care, check out this short video on Your Nurse is On.