Lee Aase

Lee Aase on how Mayo Clinic livestreamed his own colonoscopy on Periscope

Lee Aase is a busy guy.

He's the Director of Mayo Clinic's Social Media Network, an external facing service for colleagues at other hospitals and healthcare institutions to learn from one another how to navigate social media.

Lee also leads Mayo Clinic's Social and Digital Innovation team, an extensive social program that provides enterprise-wide consultation to their internal stakeholders. So it may come as a surprise that this month, he volunteered to be the subject of a campaign to raise awareness for colorectal cancer.

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among cancers that affect both men and women,” says Lee.

“It takes almost 50,000 lives every year in the U.S. alone. Even sadder, it's among the most preventable cancers.”

He explains that about a third of the people who should be getting screened for colorectal cancer aren't because of misconceptions about the screening process. So during a brainstorm about how to promote Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month this March, they decided a livestreamed colonoscopy would demystify the process. Showing it live would prove that a colonoscopy isn't so bad.

Mayo Clinic tweet

The #ScopeScope campaign would be a first for Mayo Clinic.

And as as far as they knew, it would be a first for Periscope too.

“We've done Twitter chats, which are great, but they're very democratic. There's nothing wrong with a democratic discussion. But when you've got a world-renowned subject expert answering questions and everybody's use of the hashtag is essentially the same, a Twitter chat is not as rich of an experience as what you get with Periscope and live video.”

“Why not simplify the process and be the patient myself?”

Lee explains, “We do something like 70-90 colonoscopies a day at Mayo Clinic, so I was sure we could find someone willing to do this. But then, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I'm due.'”

With Lee as the patient, they could follow the process earlier on, mapping out the steps patients take to prepare for a colonoscopy. As Lee started prep the night before, he shared his experience on Vine, Periscope, and Instagram. He says they wanted to reach as many touch points as they could, and spread the word about the live stream before it happened through blog posts as well.

Lee Aase Instagram

They also leveraged their partners, Fight Colorectal Cancer, and their broad network of patient advocates. By using the right hashtags at different times, they brought in audiences from different organizations in the three week period leading up to the live screening.

With a live colonoscopy, you have to plan for complications.

They needed a room with windows so they could get a better wifi signal. They needed space for cameras — not just for Periscope, but the news cameras covering the live coverage as well. Because of their initiative, Lee's screening was also broadcast during the closing bell on the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square.

Mayo Clinic Instagram

And although this type of screening is literally 99.99 percent safe, Lee's team had contingency plans for complications in the screening, as well as a procedure should cancer be detected (which it was not). “With Periscope, we wanted to go with a screening that was highly likely to provide education, but not super risky,” Lee says.

“The staff was all super supportive of it, because this is what they do. They thought it was great that we were raising awareness.”

During the colonoscopy, gastroenterologist Dr. Paul Limberg (who was not performing the screening) answered live questions.

Lee says they turned those in-depth questions and answers into a 28-minute highlight video for YouTube. “That's great that we could get a half-hour or so of his time to answer really great questions, and now it's on YouTube for the long term.”

He says they're looking forward to similar initiatives for other low-risk, highly educational screenings like colonoscopies.

“I think another thing we're going to start doing is probably broadcasting Facebook Live and Periscope at the same time for the same broadcast so that wherever people want to join they'll be able to. Both provide an opportunity to reach significant audiences.”

Three thousand people tuned in to the #ScopeScope

And rolling in with the questions was also the praise. Comments streamed in from colorectal cancer survivors saying thank you for bringing awareness to the cause and showing support for the community. Lee also heard from at least one person that after seeing the video, they were going to get a screening.

“We may not ever know for sure if we have saved lives, but I think there's a good chance we will.”

Lee has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2015. Follow Lee on Twitter and ask him about Mayo Clinic's Social Media Network and their recent collaboration with SocialMedia.org Health. Together, we've launched a community for the senior social media leaders and decision-makers at hospitals and health systems (more on that here).