In the latest issue of the JAMA the results of a survey is published. The authors did a search on physicians using twitter. They extracted the public profile pages of the physicians using twitter with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010. They analyzed the tweets of these professionals.
Of the 5156 tweets analyzed, 49% (2543) were health or medical related, 21% (1082) were personal communications, 14% (703) were retweets, and 58% (2965) contained links. Seventy-three tweets (1%) recommended a medical product or proprietary service, 634 (12%) were self-promotional, and 31 (1%) were related to medical education.
But what is somewhat worrying were their findings of potential patient privacy violations and conflicts of interest. Thirty-eight tweets (0.7%) represented potential patient privacy violations, of the 27 users responsible for these privacy violations 25 were identifiable by full name on the profile, by photo or link to their personal website. Twelve tweets were about a product they were selling on their Web site or repeatedly promoting specific health products, 10 were statements about treatments not supported by the official guidelines.
Using social media by physicians does broadcast useful medical information, unprofessional content in tweets by physicians is rare.
Chretien KC, Azar J, & Kind T (2011). Physicians on twitter. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 305 (6), 566-8 PMID: 21304081