Twitter, Periscope, Health IT, and Patient Experience

This post is prompted by today’s #HITsm tweetchat Crowdsourcing Patient Experience on Social Media.

I’ve fallen hard for Periscope, Twitter’s new live video streaming app. Despite a long list of “But…”s (privacy, flakey clients, low rez video, difficulty finding the best videos in real-time, trolls…), the idea itself — “Explore the world in real time through someone else’s eyes” — is great, perhaps even, dare I say, revolutionary. For example, yesterday I explored the world of EHR and health IT medical office workflow through the eyes of a patient and her physician. (By the way, the Periscope link is only good for 24 hours, so will cease to work today around 2PM EST. See further below for YouTube archive. The Periscope is to be preferred, because it includes comments and hearts.) I’ve surfed off the coast of Australia. I’ve admired kittens online (now, that IS revolutionary!).

For five years I’ve been messing around with almost real-time wearable video streaming. I started with Looxcie (now defunct), a small camera I clipped to my baseball cap. What I really wanted was almost real-time wearable video streaming, but could never quite pull it off. Under the right conditions, I could sometimes stream short amounts of very low rez mobile videos to a couple of people with the right clients installed. I could get somewhat higher rez videos uploaded and tweeted within reasonably short turn around times, say within a 30 minutes.

I know, this wasn’t anywhere near real time, but sending a series of these out during a 3-4 day conferences was felt more real time than the alternatives. With Google Glass I finally got my One-Minute Interviews from health IT conferences down to a couple minutes after shooting the video. I’d shoot the video. Begin the video upload on the spot. Get a notification a minute later. And tweet.

Ironically, many didn’t like Glass because they thought you were live streaming everything, which it wasn’t very capable of doing for technical reasons. Then Periscope came along. Now folks are watching 40 years of live-streamed Periscope mobile video every day. A Glass/Periscope app would have been a killer app. I’ve actually tried to figure how to use Periscope without having to hold the smartphone. I used a 3D printer to design an attachment for a photographer’s tripod. Done so for a bike handle attachment. Walked around with my smartphone peeking out of my pocket. Bought a fisherman’s chest pack (like a small backpack) and adapted it. Investigated upper arm jogging straps smart phones. Even considered a sort of hat thing that would suspect my smart phone over my right eye, a la Google Glass.

At the same time, I’ve been watching how other people are using Periscope. Just like on Twitter, there is a lot of uninteresting crap to wade through. But just like Twitter, when you find the right accounts, its sense of transport and exploring the world in real time through someone else’s eyes is amazing. I’ve surfed in Australia, multiple times, that’s amazing. I can take or leave puppy and cat videos on YouTube. But so much more enjoy them on Periscope. Because it is in real time and unscripted, I feel like, for the moment, that is MY puppy or kitty. Because I, and other viewers, are contributing our thoughts and feelings and the ’scoper is reacting, in kind, in the moment, from, on the average, thousands of miles away.

Just as with Twitter I’ve used Periscope for both professional and personal purposes. I streamed entire 50 minute presentations, to all of two people. Afterwards I uploaded to YouTube and was glad I did. (Note, the YouTubed version of Periscope videos lack comments and hearts, which are an important part of the Periscope experience.)

I’ve interviewed health IT colleagues at health IT conferences.

But I’ve mostly used Periscope for personal purposes. I live in Washington DC, a fun and interesting place. I ’scope walks among its monuments, vacation adventures, and walked through my neighborhood (”Feral cat!”).

Sometimes I know the viewers (in the sense I know people on Twitter I’ve never met but still consider friends) and sometimes I don’t (Wow, someone from New Zealand is watching planes land at Reagan National Airport with me!). I think you get the idea. I really like Periscope, and the general idea of live streaming. But how might Periscope be relevant to patient experience? I first started think about this when I wrote my first blog post about Periscope: Periscope Helped Me Change My Hubcaps! Real-time Crowdsourced Healthcare Social Media Problem-Solving?

That post described how surprised I was when I frivolously Periscoped installing replacement hubcaps. I had no expectation of anything more then a bit of fun and a couple viewers. Forty-four showed up. I ran into problems installing the hubcaps. One of the views practically came through my smartphone when I decided to give up. He was in the “motor trade” from Birmingham, UK. He told us, step by step, how to successfully install our hubcaps. And we did.



At the very end of that post I wrote:

“Could this work, or be adapted, in healthcare? Obviously, there are all kinds of privacy, security and real-time search issues. But just imagine, if those obstacles could be overcome…. A doctor could Periscope, “I’m looking at a skin lesion I’ve never seen before #dermatology” and a thousand physicians tune in. A patient could Periscope, “I’m about to get a diagnosis I’m afraid of…. #cancer” and a thousand patients tune in, take notes, and offer support. Of course, I know, privacy, security and real-time search… but… What if?!”

While I’ve been exploring Periscope, @Jimmie_Vanagon, an internist in Montana, has too. Similarly, his scope span personal and professional topics. I’ve watched hawks in his backyard, his wife kiln (verb?) and sell pottery, and his father-in-law harvest wheat from within giant John Deere combines.

Dr. Vanagon (he likes euro vans) has also used Periscope to explain how he has set up his EHR and medical office workflows. (My interest in this subject is legendary among occasionally somewhat horrified but thankfully apparently bemusedly tolerant corner of the health IT Twitterverse.)

In the following video, uploaded from Periscope to YouTube after the fact, Dr. V interviews one of his patients, Martha, about her impressions of how he uses health IT in his practice. By the way, while the YouTube is good, it’s not nearly as good as the original Periscope, which included lots of comments (to which J responded) and hearts (which he appreciated). I think it is a good example of what is currently possible regarding the use of Periscope to explore patient experience, HIT, and workflow.



I think Periscope will be a lot like Twitter. It will be used in a great variety of ways that cannot be foreseen.

Folks have asked me how Periscope is better than other video streaming options.

Folks have asked me how Periscope could possibly be the best thing since sliced bread as a leadership tool.

I have asked myself, how can Periscope be used in health IT social media?

Great question!

P.S. A great way to watch some examples of Periscope videos is just click on this link. You won’t be able comment. That requires an Android or iOS client. Skip around until you find something compelling. It’s early days, wild and wooly! Then join the party!

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  1. By Do You Periscope? | EMR and HIPAA on August 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    [...] Webster is officially a Periscope addict and wrote a great post about why he’s become an addict and some of its healthcare IT uses. Here’s a section of [...]

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