Matthew Holt

Why You Ought To Be On Twitter

Today we’re introducing a new feature on THCB.  Every two weeks I’ll be broadcasting a brief segment with the folks at ReachMD, the radio station for doctors that broadcasts on XM satellite radio.  If you like, you can have a listen to the inaugural broadcast here. (You’ll need to sign up first, but the process is quick and painless.) You’ll also probably want to take a minute to contribute to the quick web-based poll tied to the broadcast. Today’s, which can be found at the foot of this post, asks how healthcare professionals are using Twitter.

More than 100 million people now have a Twitter account and millions of Tweets are sent daily. The Library of Congress is archiving every tweet ever sent!

If you need catching up, Twitter is a service that lets you send very short messages called “tweets”. Anyone can “follow” your tweets, that is subscribe to your messages, and you can subscribe to anyone else’s Tweets.

Some hospitals have already started tweeting, including a few sending minute by minute updates from the OR. That may generate publicity, but it’s not the most worthwhile use of Twitter.

But what’s the use of tweeting? Should you be doing it?

The magic of Twitter is that it extends your reach. There are two ways to use Twitter – one is inbound. One of the things you can tweet is a web link. Almost all journals, media companies, and medical leaders tweet links to their articles and opinions. And other people and organizations you’re following are also tweeting articles and opinions from people and organizations they’re following. …. Now you’re seeing what a whole community of experts is looking at —with virtually no effort.

The other way to use twitter is outbound. You can set up an account for your practice and advertise it to your patients. You can send them updates about your services, links to interesting articles, and alerts about things like flu shots or drug recalls. It’s a quick, easy, free — and will be an increasingly important way of maintaining patient relationships.

So, are you already using Twitter? Participate in the ReachMD Poll and see how your Twitter habits compare to your colleagues’. I’m Matthew Holt, thanks for listening.

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14 replies »

  1. yes, it is quite familiar to see such that we really ought to be on twitter .. thanks stav to share. we are also on, but not as much Amy Dixon are engaging with everything . .

  2. Great post, Matt. I did not know that the Library of Congress is archiving every tweet in the Twittersphere. Twitter has the potential to be a value-add for physicians, if used well. Examples include sharing community resources that may be of interest to their patients such as Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs available through the U.S. Administration on Aging’s local area agency on aging. It could be tweeting about potential harm of certain over the counter medications, such as chronic use of NSAIDs in older adults. It could be a link to a local article or resource on caregiving. Some physicians host chats or engage local experts to lead chats on Twitter (using a hashtag–if you don’t know this there is a simple guide on Twitter that explains). One note of caution– physicians may get direct messages from patients through Twitter. A policy clarifying your review and response protocol would best be established and communicated before jumping in. You could put on your homepage that you do not follow the Twitter feed with a reminder how best to contact the physician. The question of Twitter use is not going away. The fastest growing use of social media is occurring in the older adult population. This may be one more opportunity to provide supportive health information. Tweet on!
    All best,
    Amy Berman aka @jhartfound @notesonnursing

  3. I agree with Stacy. I would add that, in my opinion, it’s not a question of safety or privacy, but rather of trustworthiness.

  4. Yes, we tweet all the time and we love it! Although we’re not physicians but rather a health care insurance broker, we feel it is a great platform to connect with associates and customers for any profession.

  5. I don’t think Twitter itself is the right forum for medical advice and OR updates – but the tool is right. If someone is able to make it more secure (and private) than I think it would be more worthwhile.

  6. Blogger and nurse Amy Dixon Drouin blogs about how she uses Twitter to keep a pulse (excuse the pun) on all the health information out there, and she also tweets about information that is of interest to nurses.
    And the Visiting Nurse Service of New York also tweets about information vital for caregivers who are taking care of their loved ones. You can follow us at if this is of interest.

  7. We’re big proponents at of doctors, health experts, and health organizations tweeting and sharing useful health information with patients this way. In fact we are currently building what we are calling The Health Graph, a social graph of health experts, and filtering, organizing, and tagging the best links/resources health experts are sharing in order to make this information easy to find. We are curating this health stream in order to create the first real-time discovery engine for health. We currently have invited and verified 2500 Doctors and health experts to be featured in this Health Graph and are adding more experts everyday so it is very early. We’d welcome any feedback from people on how we can keep improving the free service, and get more Doctors tweeting and sharing their wisdom with the world. If you’re a health expert and believe you should be included in The Health Graph send us a tweet @organizedwisdom and we will review your stream….

  8. MD as Hell- Tweet now earns its revenue from advertisement, just as most other internet sites.
    It is also considered as useful public relationship site. Assuming you are a heretic doctor who believes in, say, combining allopathic treatment with meditation. You will easily build up a fan base. That fan base will subscribe to your tweets and will eagerly lap all the good news that you might have to share as you tweet about good results that you see in your practice. Those folks will also see advertisement about, says ‘music for meditation’, local classes etc based on the content of tweet. You get bit more publicity through subscribed audience.
    On why we use it- there are multiple reasons- need to socialize and keep in touch, news feed, relationship tool for public personalities etc.
    I wasn’t aware young adults shun this. Maybe they use Facebook to keep in touch. Facebook with its images and other groups and games is bit more interesting and exciting.

  9. I don’t tweet, have no interest, and would like to ask two questions of readers who are as unbiased and objective about this tecnological “advancement”;
    1. What income stream can be made from this?
    2. Can it be inferred from at least a sizeable percentage of people who use it is this is just a mechanism to sell one’s ego outside their own personal or computer space?
    Why is it a sizeable percentage of younger adults shun this? And why is it I hear, at least, a lot of boomers just embrace this? Narcissism has another toy, eh?

  10. It will be nice if I could get search for tweets about my doctor. Seems like tweets are high up on credibility factor.
    That apart, I see tweet as expression of pent up need to socialize that is not being fulfilled.