When Intermountain Healthcare, Utah’s biggest health system, decided to get the word out on its newly acquired expertise in three-dimensional heart-mapping technology for the treatment of abnormal heart rhythms, the healthcare system took to social media.

And it wasn’t just a random series of tweets and a few posts on Facebook that netted Intermountain 35,000 impressions and 213 retweets on the Intermountain Twitter page at @IntermtnMedCtr and 183 likes on Facebook. Instead what Intermountain calls record volume for its social media traffic came through a carefully planned Twitter campaign that included a series of 29 tweets documenting first use of the new heart mapping technology directly from a procedure done live in the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute’s catheterization laboratory or cath lab.

Intermountain wanted to use social media in a new way to do a better job of getting the word out to its Utah healthcare base and the healthcare system at large that Intermountain was the first health system to use cardiac mapping technology that reduces the likelihood of a patient returning to the cath lab for additional procedures to treat abnormal heart rhythms and to educate patients on the procedure, says social media manager Jason Carlton.

“We wanted to make it interesting, live and directly from the operating room,” Carlton says. Planning the actual campaign to cover the nearly four hour procedure on social media took carefully planning—and lots of approval. First doctors, nurses and technicians at the heart institute needed to be approached, briefed and give permission to record the procedure for social media.

Carlton also needed to get permission and sign-off from Intermountain’s legal and compliance department to make sure the planned Twitter campaign didn’t violate Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, guidelines. Finally Intermountain’s social media department had to brief the patient and have them sign a consent form.

The social media department chose the Heart Institute to be a test case because of the timeliness of the procedure using the heart-mapping technology and because the physician performing the procedure—medical director of Intermountain Heart Rhythm Specialists Dr. John Day—was an advocate of using social media and Twitter as a patient and institution education and communications tool, Carlton says.

The procedure and the live Twitter campaign took place on Dec. 19. The procedure was the nation’s first case using new cardiac mapping technology, Intermountain says.

The procedure treats arrhythmias caused by rogue electrical currents traveling through the heart. The new mapping technology Intermountain used allowed physicians to map the structure and electrical currents of the heart to more precisely treat the areas of the heart where those rogue currents are occurring to prevent the abnormal heart beat, the hospital says.

During a catheter ablation procedure, physicians used several long tubes with wires, known as catheters, and inserted them up into the heart through the patient’s femoral veins. Sensors on the end of the wires recorded electrical information and created a three-dimensional, anatomical model which heart specialists then studied to identify the paths of electrical currents in the heart.

Once the 3-D image was created and studied, physicians next placed an additional catheter in the heart. The catheter is heated by high-frequency energy and used to create tiny lesions or scars that prevent the rogue currents from traveling into the heart and causing abnormal rhythms, according to Intermountain.

During the Dec. 19 procedure Intermountain had a pair of social media department members creating and sending tweets that included updates and photos. The social media staffers also at times showed tweets prior to posting to clinicians to ensure accuracy, Carlton says. “We did a tweet every 20 minutes or so.”

Intermountain considers its campaign a success. On the day of the procedure on Facebook one post reached 2,904 people and another 3,795 readers. A reach on Facebook  is the number of unique users who saw a post in a news feed. More important the Twitter campaign opened up how Intermountain can use social media going forward to generate interest and educate patients and others on new procedures with an “in the operating room” focus.

“It lets us use social media to give a behind the scenes look at new procedures and expertise being developed by Intermountain,” Carlton says.