Physicians Thinking About Using Twitter

Twitter, like most social media, is evolving rapidly. So, while I posted on this topic last year, it warrants an update. Even though most physicians are not directly familiar with Twitter, more are building an awareness and curiosity each month. This post is written mostly for those of you new to this tool or giving it consideration.

The AMA recently posted an article entitled Physicians on Twitter (logon required) and here is a synopsis of their study:

-The study focused on 5,156 tweets from 260 self-identified physicians with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010. Three percent of the tweets were categorized as “unprofessional,” meaning that they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

One percent of the tweets were marked “other unprofessional,” which included unsupported claims about a product they were selling on their website or repeated promotions of specific health products. Ten of these statements about medical therapies countered existing medical knowledge or guidelines, potentially leading to patient harm. –

While the percentages in the study don’t seem particularly alarming as compared to any other communication channel, as a physician trying to determine the value of Twitter and how one might or might not use it, I offer a few suggestions:

1. Twitter is a good tool for disseminating information. If you find articles or have opinions you want to broadcast, this is your tool. As @KevinMD remarked one time: Twitter is a headline….blogs are for fully formed thoughts.

2. Don’t buy into the hype. If you don’t use Twitter, or even if you just “lurk”, you will not become irrelevant to either your colleagues or patients.

3. Unless people that follow you are drastically different than the vast majority of people, no one cares when you are going to bed, what you are making for dinner etc. In other words, don’t use Twitter as if it’s your opportunity to star in Truman Show Part 2.

4. If you decide to use Twitter for two-way communications, ask whether or not a message would be more appropriate over email. How to decide? Do others benefit from the conversation in any way? If not, it’s likely noise or narcissism, and both are worth avoiding.

Finally, no one knows where Twitter will go. It may grow in its influence or it could just as easily flame out as something more effective comes along to fill the void. Regardless, it’s got a pronounced foot-print at the moment and worthy of your consideration. Here is a funny video mocking Twitter with a hat tip to the Facebook movie The Social Network.

Related Posts:

The Doctor Will Tweet You Now

How Twitter Hashtags Can Start Medical Conversations

8 Items Driving This Blog

Starting to today I will begin sharing thoughts, research, insights and quality third party content with anyone who cares to read. Most often my subject matter will be focused on health care, technology, social media and the intersection of the three. Occasionally I’ll veer into other personal interests such as wine, politics, history, flying, restaurants, golf and general business.

For the past year I have been passing along what I consider some of the most useful content on the web using Twitter as the medium. Like any form of communication, Twitter is not well suited for all things. I recall a comment made by @KevinMD in which he described Twitter as a “headline”. While Twitter is effective for “learning” and passing along bursts of thought or links to content, it does not facilitate fully formed thoughts.

As a result, I decided to launch this blog.

Of particular focus on this blog will be the effective use of technology and social media….most notably for physicians.

To ensure readers have a sense of the lens through which I write, here are 8 Items Driving This Bog:

  1. My professional time and focus is on the success of physicians and the institutions around them.
  2. My estimate is less than 2% of physicians are remotely engaged with social media….I am not writing for the 2% for the most part. I want to reach the 98%.
  3. While I admire “e-patients” and all the talk and activity around patient involvement in health care….it is not my expertise or focus. There is inevitable overlap.
  4. I have been professionally involved with social media for the past 4 years and have been deeply involved with technology for over 20 years. I live it.
  5. Over the past 10 years I have been privileged to work with thousands of physicians all over the country in every practice setting and specialty. My efforts have been directed toward technology enabled solutions that serve MDs/DOs.
  6. I consider physicians the most important component of our health care delivery system.
  7. Social Media is new and dynamic, so the rules and best practices are not yet set on stone tablets. That said, there is a lot of nonsense, hyperbole and blind enthusiasm in the space. I aim to guide physicians, whose time is incredibly valuable, away from said noise.
  8. Everything doesnt need or have an “ROI”… some things we just do because they are fun.