Doctor on your screen

Enloe embraces live-streaming to connect people with info

Dr. Erik Simchuk and his team at North Valley Surgical Associates are taking advantage of Facebook Live to reach out to patients near and far.

Dr. Erik Simchuk and his team at North Valley Surgical Associates are taking advantage of Facebook Live to reach out to patients near and far.

Photo by Ashiah Scharaga

Next webcast:
Enloe will go live Aug. 2 at noon on with “Lactation Accomodation,” in recognition of World Breastfeeding Week.

It’s perhaps the last place you expect to hear from your doctor: Scrolling through your cellphone’s Facebook feed while digging into a sandwich on your lunch break.

But there he is, on camera (no white coat required), relaxed, sharing coffee with a smiling, attentive interviewer from Enloe Medical Center.

That interviewer—the hospital’s community outreach coordinator, Deanna Squires—lets viewers know she wants to hear any questions they may have via the comment section, then launches into an in-depth live interview broadcast over social media.

The first live informational event happened last August, providing answers to the top 10 breastfeeding questions during World Breastfeeding Week. Other topics have included summer safety tips, mental wellness, heart disease and stress management.

Enloe’s public relations team prepares questions in advance, bringing on health professionals, such as nurses or doctors—sometimes even patients who can provide success stories—to offer their expertise for 20 minutes or less. Webcasts occur at least once a month. Topics often correlate with holidays, seasons and international health campaigns, such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or the community’s health needs.

For example, a conversation with Dr. Erik Simchuk in January centered on dieting (a popular New Year’s resolution) and misconceptions of obesity.

Simchuk is a bariatric and upper gastrointestinal surgeon at Enloe who runs North Valley Surgical Associates with Dr. Deron Ludwig.

Their office was inspired by Enloe’s digital outreach campaign and has taken to recording its Bariatric Buddies support groups live through Facebook as well.

This has been helpful for patients, Simchuk told the CN&R, because the doctors have a wide reach, serving patients from Sacramento to Portland.

“With a thing like Facebook, we’re able to talk directly to our patients,” Simchuk said. “This allows them to stay in touch with us and our support group, and they can ask questions.”

Similarly, Squires said webcasting has been particularly helpful because it has allowed the hospital to be “where people are”: on their phones and on social media.

“A friend of mine said [while tuning in], ‘I’m sitting here in my living room nursing my 3-week-old baby—she’s screaming and I’m still learning.’”

Her colleague Natali Muñoz-Moore, the department’s digital media specialist, added that many in-person community events hosted by Enloe aren’t easily captured on camera. Once a video is made, Enloe uploads it permanently so it can be accessed in the future, including references to related sources and services in the comment section.

The hospital is proud of its reach thus far—according to Facebook Analytics numbers as of last Thursday (July 12), the most popular of the 16 videos was the colorectal cancer discussion, which drew more than 14,000 views and 378 reactions. Only one video has been viewed fewer than 2,000 times; Enloe averages about 6,000 views per video. (The hospital does pay Facebook to promote them.)

Along with timely subjects, the team has focused on topics that correspond to findings of the Community Health Needs Assessment, an examination and action plan surrounding countywide health issues. According to the report, from 2016, almost 60 percent of adults are overweight or obese in Butte County, and heart disease is one of the top chronic conditions. Enloe has hosted talks on each of these.

Squires said people often don’t realize how much of their health and well-being can be managed by avoiding smoking and drugs, eating and sleeping well, exercising and watching stress levels.

These behaviors and habits, she added, are “a common thread with so many of the chronic diseases that are so high, especially in our county.”

Squires and Muñoz-Moore emphasized that they don’t ask health care professionals to provide medical advice; the videos focus on risk factors, conditions and available resources and treatments.

“I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t have access to a regular physician, and they don’t have anybody to ask [important health questions],” Muñoz-Moore said. “Just being able to connect viewers and caregivers means a lot.”

Simchuk agrees. Until the last decade, bariatric surgery had somewhat of a bad connotation, he said. Patients have come feeling like failures in their inability to lose weight, with bariatric surgery often viewed as the “last stop in a long struggle.”

“This also can be a platform to show how common it is now, how accepted it is, and how safe,” he said.

Simchuk, Squires and Muñoz-Moore agreed that webcasts offer discreet access to information that someone might feel squeamish even calling a doctor’s office to ask about.

“I think with the disease of obesity alone, the decision that has to be made to actually get out of the house and personally investigate … that’s a big one,” Simchuk said.

“We talk about subjects people are usually uncomfortable talking about,” Squires added. “It breaks down some of those barriers of I’m embarrassed; I don’t want to talk about it. … It gives them a safe space to take in that information, process it and then reach out if they want more information.”