At Seattle Hospital, Online Video Educates on Hearing Treatment

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When Eleanor Day, age 79, heard her first sounds, more than 1,700 people around the world were watching.

The activation of Day's cochlear implant -- and the surgery that installed it -- were part of a bold online video series created by the Seattle Swedish Medical Center. Running from mid-September to mid-October, 2012, the series informed potential patients about the Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, taught what a cochlear implant is and showed how surgeons prepare for a cochlear implant. Later videos showed how patients prepare for the surgery and answered FAQs.

All this led to a dramatic live broadcast of Day's surgery -- brought to the web with Instagram and Twitter, since captioning live video would have been a challenge. A short time after the surgery, the video cameras returned to show Day hearing sound for the first time in years.

Teaching Through Video

The series shows that Swedish Medical Center is at the forefront of using video to educate. Much of the job of coordinating the center's online efforts falls to Dana Lewis. As the hospital's digital media and e-health strategist, she's responsible for staying on top of new forms of digital media and devising ways to use them.

The project on hearing loss started with conversations at the Neuroscience Institute centered on project ideas. The medical team wanted to increase awareness of medical options for hearing loss. Connecting to those with hearing loss can be a challenge, Lewis says. She guessed that social media could help reach this underserved community, so she and others at the hospital planned a web series using combinations of photos and text to explain the cochlear procedure.

The series began with instructional videos designed to raise awareness of cochlear implants. All the videos were transcribed and closed-captioned. That led to the live surgery itself.

Swedish Medical"We've done live streamed surgeries, procedures, and discussions before, where we've done a combination of a live streamed surgery, and then a Q&A with a doctor live," says Lewis. "Because of the nature of hearing loss and the difficulty of trying to figure out a way to transcribe it live, we thought perhaps instead of just the raw footage that we could instead use picture and text to narrate. So we decided to use Instagram as a unique way to capture the pictures and Twitter, because we have a very broad audience, and it's easy for people to find information."

One key to the success of the series was that during its planning, the team reached out to hearing loss organizations, both to get information and to help spread news of the series.

"We partnered with a lot of advocacy groups, like the Hearing Loss Association of Washington, because we really wanted to learn, as healthcare providers, how can we continue to improve the resources we have for a number of audiences, whether it's different languages, or folks who aren't able to hear, and make sure we provide world class service," Lewis says. "We really partnered with them to figure out...what's the best way to [close] caption the videos, to make this information and these other resources that we already had available to this audience."

Lewis says the team worked hard ahead of time, and then also throughout that month, to continually optimize the hearing loss web series.

A History of Learning

The cochlear implant series wasn't the Swedish Medical Center's first time putting surgical procedures online. It has live streamed procedures and even discussions before. It has live streamed a surgery and then offered an online Q&A with the doctor once it was through.

The center's first online video experiment was live streaming a patient's experience with the sleep clinic, back in July 2010. It streamed a knee surgery live in March 2011 and in December 2011 streamed prerecorded footage of a deep brain stimulation procedure. In March 2012, the center live streamed a video on colon cancer awareness that included streaming footage from a colonoscopy.

The center has also taken its cameras outside of the hospital. In September 2010, a team from its organ transplant program climbed Mount Rainier to raise awareness about the importance of organ donation, something that they've repeated yearly. The center made sure the team had special equipment with them.

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