In USA on June 26, 2011 by jessicamurray22

I’ll admit, I am not much of a TV junkie, but I do have one guilty pleasure that involves, Thursday nights, a McDreamy & a McSteamy, and usually a couple glasses of wine.  If you’re still unsure what I am talking about, that would be Grey’s Anatomy.   It has seemed to be the only show that has held my interest over the past few seasons. Maybe it’s the drama, the good looking male doctors, or the farfetched story lines (think the episode where the live person had a ticking bomb in their body…I don’t think so) that has kept me so intrigued.  Though many of its plots may be a far cry from reality, one episode this past season left many wondering whether the show was on to something.

The episode in question, which aired this past February, shows the doctors using Twitter in the operating room, initially to follow two surgeries at once.  Now it wouldn’t be true drama television if by the end of the hour a patient wasn’t saved by the use of Twitter, which is exactly what happened.  Despite an initial protest from the Chief of Surgery, the use of Twitter in the hospital proves to be a life saving technique.  The story unfolds like this: after running into a problem during a high risk surgery, the doctors begin tweeting, suggestions flood in from doctors around the world with ideas, and after a few heart pounding moments, the patient is saved …and all because of Twitter! Inspiring, really.

Now on to how this relates to our country in question this week, Chile. On April 12th, 2011 a nurse by the name of Cristina Bizama, who worked at Talca Hospital in Chile, sent a Tweet that has since sparked international conversation.   That night, the hospital had five viable organs that needed to be transported to Santiago, Chile, 162 miles away.  With no way of getting there at the present time, which could potentially compromise their usability, Bizama Tweeted: Incredible! There’s no way to transport 5 organs to Santiago.”  When a programmer named Felipe Zuniga saw Bizama’s tweet, and decided to send a similar message, reaching out to media and political outlets, word of the organ crisis spread like wildfire.  Eventually the Health & Defense Ministers were contacted through a Member of Parliament who saw the tweet from Zuniga.  The issue seemed to be that there were no available Air Force planes available for the transport.  After sorting through other unforeseen circumstances, the organs were finally transported early the next morning, still in time to be given to patients.  Yet, the conversation didn’t end with their delivery.

The Procurement Coordinator for the National Transplant Corporation, Diego Buchuk, stated they were aware of the situation and working to remedy it before Bizama’s tweet.  However, the use of Twitter helped move the conversation and transport along and brought to light a potential weakness in the Transplant Corporation that should be addressed in order to prevent the risk of losing viable organs in the future.  The nurse’s tweet did far more then start a conversation about this one incident, it has provided an idea for how to solve similar problems in the future.  It also offers a means of holding medical organizations accountable, making them more likely to develop stronger contingency plans for when issues such as the transplant delivery one arise.

Both the factious episode of Grey’s Anatomy and the real life story of the Chilean nurse’s tweet beg the question as to the use of social media in the medical field, both in Chile and around the world.  According to, as of June 8th 2011, 788 hospitals in the US alone have Twitter accounts, a number that has tripled in the last two years.  Twitter is being used at these hospitals for a variety of reasons, including research and education.

I believe all those involved in the medical field should explore the power and access Twitter can offer them.  As long as a patient’s privacy isn’t compromised and the social network is helping to engage and educate doctors and medical professionals in ways they would not have been able to learn before, I don’t believe there is cause for concern.  With so many hospitals already joining the movement, and the stories of success, such as the one from Chile, the possibilities are seemingly endless, including life saving abilities!


  1. I’ll admit that at the start of this post you had me a bit worried because I wasn’t sure how this would relate to our assignment of the week … but you managed to bring it back to the topic very nicely and the context that you provided of the episode on Grey’s actually helped to make your case that there may be an unexplored life saving potential for Twitter here. The example of the Chilean nurse was a nice find and gave you a great story to share in your post. Ultimately, what I really enjoyed was the way that you brought these two examples together to share a real and useful conclusion about the potential for Twitter to be life saver – and you did it without neglecting the very obvious concern about patient confidentiality.

    The only criticism of this post I would have is that it would have been great to include a few images – of the nurse, or of her tweet. That and some sort of subheadings would have helped to break up what was a bit of a longer post and made it much more readable. It is an important point to remember because when it comes to blog posts, no matter how good your content is – you will still suffer from the challenge of getting people to read the whole thing when the visit your page (and seeing a big chunk of text will often cause people to give up more quickly, missing out on your thinking and writing). (5 + 1 for early posting = 6)

    PS – no need to capitalize all the words in the title of your post … as it can unintentionally look as though you are “screaming” the title (and can sometimes be mistaken for spam by search engines).

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