Distilling scientific knowledge into only 280 characters can be challenging but also valuable in a time of busy schedules and an ever-increasing number of research publications. In medicine and healthcare, Twitter is currently emerging as one of the leading social media platforms. The willingness to adopt the service, however, differs between disciplines.
By Ghanshyam Yadav
Ever since the internet has become our go-to source for ‘reliable’ medical information, more and more health professionals are using the internet and social media in their professional lives. In particular, the microblogging and social networking service Twitter has gained in popularity among physicians and publishers of medical journals who use it to communicate with peers as well as the general public.
It has been shown that research shared on Twitter, can have more impact on other researchers. Furthermore, Twitter journal clubs are becoming increasingly common. Within these, academic physicians moderate discussions on a specific topic, which comes with a specific hashtag – e.g. #RheumJC for rheumatology-related or #NephJC for nephrology-related research.
Are academic physicians tapping the full potential of Twitter as a communication and discussion tool?
A group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in the US attempted to answer this question for the specific field of Obstetrics and Gynecology (“ObGyn”). To do so, they analyzed the Twitter presences of editorial board members of the six leading journals in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Their results, recently published in the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, showed that only one third of the 240 physician leaders used Twitter to share novel medical findings. Physicians who had graduated more recently from medical school had a significantly higher Twitter presence. The researchers also found that Twitter use was less common in ObGyn than in other medical disciplines.
“In our daily lives”, lead author Dr. Ghanshyam Yadav explains, “it is more feasible for us to browse Twitter than to sit down and read journals. Moreover, we can choose to follow certain physician leaders in our interest areas and obtain curated information at our fingertips.”
According to the researchers, Tweeting can also be instrumental in fostering patient education and serve as a source of verified medical information. “This can help with incorporating continued medical education in our daily lives and help us provide better care for our patients“, Dr. Yadav adds.
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