This case study is the first of a two part series. The information below reflects the events of April 25th, 2011 from a human standpoint, without critical regard to process or tactical considerations, or future implications, which will be covered in Part II.
Social media and health care, the conundrum of all conundrums. While social media facilitates a quickness and level of transparency that contrasts starkly with the inherently private nature of health care, there are moments and glimpses that show us that the two can coexist, and quite effectively. Because much of what I do here at Emory Healthcare involves social media, I’m an advocate for its use and believe in the benefits of social media for health care organizations. To name a few, social media breaks down geographic barriers to traditional support groups. It allows us to keep important health and wellness factors top of mind. We can use social media to discuss health news and innovations in real time or solve problems for patients, families, and communities looking for a quick solution, or an outlet and set of ears to listen. In all of these cases, social media proves time and time again to be a trusted source for getting answers, engaging with peers and businesses, and resolving problems. On April 25th, I had a chance to participate in a social media dialogue that will forever impact my life, and potentially the realm of health care social media.
At 11:06 am on April 25, we received a tweet from Matthew Browning, who was playing a critical role in helping his wife and family in getting through a crisis situation. The tweet read as follows, “@emoryhealthcare NEED HELP NOW!! Grandma w/ RUPTURED AORTA needs Card Surgeon/OR ASAP, STAT! can you accept LifeFlight 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. 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: 404-686-8334.”
What was most important here was giving Matthew 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. The reason we provided the number for the transfer service will be discussed in detail in part two of the case study.
Four minutes later, at 11:21 am, Matthew responded, “@emoryhealthcare We are doing that! She is in small South Georgia hosp right now- but needs MAJOR help- We are calling, thanks!” We 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.” Matthew sent a tweet one minute later, “@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!”
16 minutes later, at 11:41 am Matthew’s wife’s grandmother was on a lifeflight to Emory. “@emoryhealthcare Thank you for accepting her- She is on the LifeFlight to you now- Bless you all and Thank you!!”
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. 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. As Matthew mentioned when I spoke with him via phone on Tuesday, “when you’ve got a ruptured aorta as a diagnosis, you can’t think. You gotta just move.”
And move he did. As a Registered Nurse and founder of Your Nurse is On, a health care staffing application, Matthew’s circle of health care peers and friends is not a small one. Using Twitter, email, and LinkedIn, he was able to make more contacts in minutes than anyone could in hours with traditional technologies. At the same time, phone calls were being made from the hospital trying to find a hospital to transfer his wife’s grandmother to, “we got lots of nos,” Matthew told me Tuesday. Thankfully, in this case we were able to be there. When he reached out to us via Twitter our team had the ability and capacity to help. “We group-sourced something to people with a common interest and achieved a medical miracle,” Matthew said.
While HIPAA and patient privacy considerations are of the utmost priority when it comes to any health care related dialogue, there are moments in which common sense and the willingness and desire to save a life has to take a front seat. He recalled that when his wife’s grandmother was on her way via lifeflight, a surgeon had been lined up, but a bed had not. But in times of crisis, like he says, you just move. And like Matthew moved to make contact with his network in minutes, our team of physicians, nurses, and staff moved to make sure our patient was accommodated. “That’s the pace of health care,” he says.
In this case, health care and social media not only coexisted, but mirrored each other in pace to keep alive the possibility of saving a life. Without the quickness of social media, that helicopter may have never been dispatched. It’s our commitment and our passion in health care to do everything we can to make sure the things we can control go well. On April 25, Twitter was a tool we used to help make that happen.
Very unfortunately, we learned from Matthew via Twitter that his wife’s grandmother passed away on Monday evening. He told us “@emoryhealthcare Thank You for your valiant efforts on behalf of our Grandmother – your team is awesome and their compassion unrivaled- thx“.
We are and will continue to keep Matthew, his wife, and their family members in our hearts and thoughts. When I spoke to him on Tuesday, though, he had a humbling peace about him, as though he knew everything possible was done. The series of events that took place on Monday, April 25 were no doubt humbling and powerful for all of us involved. This experience has shown us what we already believed, that social media has the power to truly change the landscape of health care and impact and potentially save individual lives because of it.
Thank you to Matthew Browning and his wife, Phoebe, for reaching out a hand and for the dedication, care, and love they have shown us and the health care community despite tremendously chaotic circumstances. Welcome to our Emory Healthcare family.
Author: Morgan Griffith, Interactive Marketing Manager, Emory Healthcare