How to Periscope a live surgery

Phoenix Children’s Hospital broadcast a live surgical procedure performed on a 13 year old. The hospital’s manager of digital marketing shares numerous tips for success.

Live-streaming a surgical procedure on Periscope can provide an unprecedented peek into the operating room for potential patients and their families. Success, however, requires careful attention to a variety of things that can go right—and wrong.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital recently used Periscope to show the reconstruction of the chest wall of a 13-year-old boy. A pectus excavatum surgery is the result of a congenital defect in which the chest wall and rib cage are deformed and appear “caved in.” If left untreated, it can impact the heart and lungs.

The surgical team of four doctors and three nurses—as well as the parents—fully supported the live video. Though the operation lasted just an hour, we learned several lessons for future “scopes.”

Live streaming creates an instant, interactive community. Communicators and executives may be surprised to find former patients, potential patients, family members, clinicians and caregivers often feel comfortable asking and answering questions in real-time. However, without preparation, technical issues and privacy concerns can potentially overshadow the benefits.

Here are the takeaways for successfully streaming a live surgery:


  • Find the right procedure and surgical team. It goes without saying, but make sure the surgeon is on board from the onset. Coordinate with family members, the patient and surgical team in advance. An ideal opportunity is to scope a new or trending procedure with a clinical team who is comfortable on camera.
  • Promote it. Work with your surgical coordinator to spread the word to relevant associations and patient groups who would be interested in viewing the surgery.
  • Create social media posts in advance. Schedule tweets in advance such as length of recovery time and other common questions. These can help fill the void when things get quiet. You should also craft a statement in case something goes wrong and you need to abruptly end the broadcast.
  • Prepare the hardware. Conduct bandwidth checks with your IT team on the surgery floor. Nothing would be worse than discovering that the operation room can’t live- stream video. Bring extra portable chargers and tablets, too.


  • Point viewers to the right place. If you have substantially more followers on Twitter than Periscope, it may be easier to direct viewers to Twitter for the link. Update viewers if the timing changes. Most people know surgeries often start late.
  • Plan for subject matter experts to address questions in real-time. Two team members and our surgery coordinator answered questions directly on Periscope in a consult room. The set-up allowed us to manage the conversation and narrate instantaneously.
  • Focus on the action. During the surgery, we moved to the opposite side of the room to show the monitors. We realized there wasn’t anything to see from the outside, and once the monitors were broadcast, there was an immediate increase in the number of comments and likes.
  • Stay out of the clinical team’s way. Do everything possible to avoid interrupting the procedure. Remember you are a guest in the operating room, not the star. Know where you can and can’t stand.
  • Use audio. PC viewers may not be able to see the comments in real time (although they can experience the replay), so ask a nurse, surgery coordinator or another member of the clinical team to narrate.


  • Post the replay. Since Periscope now gives the option to store videos longer than 24 hours , post the replay link somewhere permanent or upload the footage to YouTube. You can save it to your device without the comments.
  • Share with staff. Create a one-sheet with senior leadership and invite medical staff to pass it along to their associates and friends.
  • Continue with media pitches and social media. You may be the first in your specialty or hospital class to use Periscope in the operating room, so pitch to trade media and medical association newsletters. Take advantage of new conversations that happen as a result.

Jared Johnson is the manager of marketing technology and analytics for Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

(Image via) Previously Published Material.


Health Care News Feed

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Health Care News directly in your inbox.