'Grey's Anatomy' Wants to Put Your Surgery on Twitter

Jeanne Sager

Grey's Anatomy TwitterGrey's Anatomy has joined the social networking age. Dr. Bailey has teets, er, tweets (more on that later). And she knows how to use them.

In an episode that Meredith Grey's voice-over warned would be all about "deception" and "placebos," the real issue turned out to be communication, and how the doctors of Seattle Grace/Mercy West suck at it. Sorry, but there it is. And as always, if you just DVR'd the episode, beware the spoilers to come.

A few biggies to get out of the way:

  • Dr. McDreamy finally has his Alzheimer's trial under way, and he's signed Karev up to assist him on it ... without telling Dr. Grey. Aka his wife. Aka the woman most at risk of developing Alzheimer's. Turns out he feels bad knowing he can't stick her in the trial and ward off the risk of Alzheimer's.
  • Callie is pregnant. With Sloane's baby. And Sloane doesn't want to just be "the cool uncle." But if he's going to be a dad to two lesbians' baby, he needs to tell his girlfriend, Little Grey, the whole story. And it isn't going to be easy.

OK, so we see there's bad communication going on. Now back to Bailey. Aka the only Seattle Grace doc who has mastered communication. She's using Twitter as a means to teach her interns even when they aren't in the actual room with her. But when Chief Webber finds out, he's worried about liability issues, prompting the old geezer to get Owen Hunt to show him how it works, giving us the silly moment of the night:

Chief to Owen: I’m trying to look at Bailey’s teets on the Internet.

Owen to Chief: It’s tweets .... It’s important you get that one right.

And it's important they get Twitter right, frankly. In the news, social networking and health care are not mixing well. Take the case of the nursing students kicked out of their program for posting photos of an unidentified woman's placenta on their Facebook pages. They claimed they were "sharing their educational experience" with their friends. Then there are the ER doctors who posted photos of a dying man on Facebook and were fired for their bad judgment.

The Chief's silly malapropism aside, there are clear liability issues for hospitals when staff hops on the Internet. The federal government has made great strides in protecting our rights as patients via HIPAA, which requires health care workers to put our privacy first.

But we can look as far back as last month, when the Egyptian government pulled the plug on the Internet, to remind us just how potent social networking can be. Information is power. And in a hospital, where medical miracles depend on the best information and innovations, knowledge is quite literally a lifesaver.

Which Grey's showed successfully last night in a (admittedly contrived) surgery scene. Someone from another hospital was on Twitter at the exact moment that things went bad in the Seattle Grace OR, and suddenly help was on the way! The immediacy of Twitter saved a life.

The job of a doctor is to first do no harm. But in the social networking age, that means balancing what does more harm: to possibly give out too much information about a patient or to lose their battle for life because you haven't given enough. I don't want my doctor tweeting that I snore during surgery. I don't want to see my cottage cheese thighs on some nurse's Facebook page.

But if it's Twitter that gets my kid a new set of lungs, I'm all for it. What do you think: did Grey's make a case for social networking's place in a hospital setting?


Image via ABC

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