Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cell Phones, Hospitals, and Social Media

Infusion phlebitis
Picture: Copyright 2011 Teresa Heithaus

Over a year ago my son was admitted to a local hospital for emergency surgery. The hospital was known for its excellent reputation and for its ANCC Magnet status. He developed some complications following surgery that extended his stay longer than expected. During the hospitalization he developed a Grade 3- 4 infusion phlebitis. I uncovered the phlebitis by examining his right arm after he complained about pain at the IV site. I pulled up the sleeve on the hospital gown and saw a long red streak that extended from his antecubital region up to his shoulder. Immediately, I called his nurse who examined his arm and discontinued the IV. After the nurse left the room, I dug through my purse and pulled out my cell phone. I wasted no time in taking a photograph of his affected arm. I was not thinking of litigation but rather, I believed this would make a good photo for the IV course that I teach at my institution. An added plus was that I could easily obtain permission for use of the picture. His nurse soon returned to tend to his arm.
Uploading pictures or videos onto a social media site from a smart phone takes only seconds.  In general, any individual with a smart phone can simply click on a social media app such as Facebook, followed by clicking on the "+" symbol and choose either a picture on file or “Take a photo/video.” In moments, a person can post the picture or video along with a “comment” on a social media site for every "friend" or "follower" to see. From my perspective, most of the pictures or videos posted by my family or friends have been positive, fun, or just plain silly. However, this does not limit individuals from posting negative, malicious, compromising, and hurtful comments, pictures, or videos on social media sites.
 A nursing colleague had once told me of a patient's family member who insisted on using his cell phone to videotape discharge education his mother was receiving in the hospital. She asked the family member not to videotape the session as she felt it was “distracting and made her uncomfortable.” I suggested that the development of “scripted,” educational, video tutorials become available on the hospital Internet site for the purpose of patient education. This way, patients and their families can be directed to the website for viewing the information while providing their full attention to the live educational session.
Disgruntled consumers have been known to write negative feedback on websites or even post disparaging videos on YouTube.  Some institutions have resorted to creating policies to combat the taking or posting of pictures and videos (on the Internet) by imposing a ban on such activities while on the hospital premises. However, do such policy statements stop anyone from taking pictures or videos with his or her cell/smart phone when such actions can be done quickly and covertly? The discovery of such posts generally occurs well after the fact.

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  2. I definitely agree about the standardization of patient education videos. I am really disappointed when I see precious hospital dollars spend on communication/marketing videos (I'm Canadian - so we our healthcare is free so there is in a sense less competition). What we need are quality videos on procedures, diseases, and tips on healthy living, then if there is any extra money translate them into other languages!

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