Twitter, Doctors, Hospitals and Medical Education

twitter and surgery

Beginning March 2009 the number of hospitals on using social media such as twitter in the US was 206, the current number is 214 (March 31). The growth is mainly due to popular social media app Twitter. But hospitals are also on facebook, have a blog or website. For an overview of the use of social media by hospitals with links please visit the list with the most current hospitals on social media on Found in Cache

Now what should they do with twitter, how can hospitals and physicians benefit from twitter? According to BrainTwits of Michael Lara, MD.

According to Michael Lara Twitter use falls under three categories:

As a Tool For Information Collection:

As A Tool for Information Sharing:

  • Physician to Physician communication for general medical questions, curbside consults
  • Live blogging from medical conferences
  • As a Tool for Communications Regarding Direct Patient Care, such as hhysician-to-team member about non-urgent matters and office staff-to-patient about appointment reminders

He also warns against the use of twitter

I’ve also found that there are several scenarios where Twitter should NOT be used: To communicate directly with patients and their families, To communicate with anyone regarding matters that require urgent or timely action, To answer inquiries from anyone regarding details about patient care, even if from a recognized Twitter account.

For security reasons the use of twitter among physicians about these topics should solely be done by DM or direct messaging.

Another suggestion is from eHealth:

One comment I have is that physicians who practice in multiple sites could use it as a communication tool with their offices similar to how pagers have been used until now. One way to manage such accounts is to protect updates and only allow a limited number of colleagues or office staff to view updates.

John Sharp in a presentation on SlideShare suggest using twitter for: press releases, emergency communication, personal health diary, weight management support, daily health tips, brainstorming and updating families during procedures. He is looking at the use of twitter by doctors and hospitals more from a patient perspective.

Medical students has made a list of Doctors, Medical Students and Medicine related functions on twitter

Other uses of twitter e.g. surgeons at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit used Twitter, to provide real-time updates on a robot-assisted surgery. The Twitter updates were accompanied by YouTube videos of the surgery. The information was available to 385 Twitter users who signed up for the feed, according to hospital officials. The aim of Twitter updates was to expose patients, medical students and physicians to the hospital’s new surgical procedures and technology. In the same hospital the same procedure was used during brain surgery. More than 1,900 who subscribe to the microblogging social network site Twitter followed the Henry Ford Hospital. And here while surgeons are preparing to remove a cancerous tumor from a man’s kidney.

For an interesting discussion about How Hospitals Should Use Twitter, read the post from one of the twitter pioneers Ves Dimov on Clinical Cases and Images Blog.

Twitter is suggested to be of help for medical education as well. A special twitter group is formed for this topic with the hashtag #meded. For an in depth discussion about the use of twitter in medical education please read a recent post on this blog: Twitter and medical education especially the comments.

In this post there is also a slideshow on twitter and education. Roughly it comes down to these uses of twitter in education:

  • Create bulletins or class reminders in twitter
  • Build student connection beyond the class room

Have a look at the slideshow in the post for examples.

You could also use twitter during presentations during workshops, lectures. Have a look at 5 Ways to Use Twitter during a Presentation for examples and suggestions.

It is good to be critical and not to optimistic about the use of web 2.0 in general and twitter especially in medical education. Read Wishful thinking in medical education:

I think that before doing that we need to figure out if these tools actually deliver something that is useful to medical students and to doctors. What gap are they actually filling? Medical education can certainly be improved. But we need to describe the problems before we come up with the solutions.

Last but not least Phil Baumann made a list: 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter

What do you think any additional uses or is twitter for health care overrated? Let me know in the comments.