“I don’t get Twitter.”
“I don’t have time to … um, tweet!”
“Nobody cares what I had for lunch.”
As an (ahem) senior medical staff member I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I talk about Twitter. Some people (most people?) haven’t actually had a look themselves but have views about it being lightweight, superficial and a time waster.
Twitter is part of a revolution in health care; we are moving from the one-way “doctor knows best” model to a two-way dialogue in which patients and carers are actively engaged with health professionals and participate in their own health care.
I use Twitter mostly professionally. Surprised? Since I joined, the answer to the question, “Did you see the xyz paper?” has turned from a probably ‘No’ to a certain ‘Yes’. I have seen everything! I have “met” amazing people all around the world; patients, carers, other health professionals, health care leaders.
There are heaps of articles about why health care professionals should use Twitter online.
For me, the benefits in Twitter are in
- seeing important palliative papers as soon as they are out,
- learning about current and future research projects
- gaining a better patient/carer perspective
- meeting people I would not otherwise
- hearing about interesting stuff from other fields, and
- powerfully enhancing the conference experience. I can even ‘be’ at conferences without being there!
For research, it’s an amazing tool to bring together ideas and people and talk about their work. When I was looking at setting up a project to improve breathlessness in palliative patients, I asked my Twitter mates as well as doing a formal lit search. They kindly send me a stack of stuff including some unpublished data by leaders in the field which I had no way of knowing about otherwise. I was able to connect with people doing similar work in the UK.
Here’s a proper talk about how to get on to Twitter
My quick summary would be
- What is everyone talking about? Just jump on at twitter.com and have a look. Search for a couple of hastags that are interesting to you. You could try #palliative or #hpmglobal (hospice and palliative medicine global).
- What is this # thing? A hashtag is a way that people mark the topic of their tweet. So for example, if I wanted to ask a question about opioid use in Africa and want to ask the global palliative community, I might tweet
“interested in learning about #palliative opioid use in africa #hpmglobal”
- Join up. Choose a user name or “handle”. Mine is @sonialf. You can tell it’s my username as it starts with “@”. If I had my time again I would separate my personal identity from my professional identity.
- Follow some people. To follow someone, click on their handle then press “follow”. You will then see all the tweets they make. Follow @palliverse, of course!
- Check out some chats. Try #hpmglobal at 22:00 AEST on Monday nights and #hpm on Thursdays. Or #hcsmanz (health care social media Australia/New Zealand) at 20:00 AEST Sunday nights. Just type the hashtag into the search bar at the appropriate time, and viola! A group of people around the world come together at this prearranged time to discuss a predetermined topic. All their tweets will be marked with the relevant hashtag.
Next time… twitter 102 – I know what a hashtag is – what’s next?
Should doctors use Twitter? http://www.amednews.com/article/20090629/business/306299993/4/