Monday, February 15, 2010

Twitter for Medical Professionals: 11 Uses in 9 Steps

Twitter really had a big year in 2009, but some of the shine may appear to be wearing off.  Sure you have seen it on your preferred 24/7 news channel and everyone and every organization seems to want you to follow them on Twitter (or be a fan on Facebook).  But Twitter is still a important force in information dissemination and therefore medical professionals and organizations need to be aware of how this tool can work best for one's information gathering and disseminating practices.

First let's get a few things out of the way

  • Saying Twitter, Tweet, Re-Tweet, Tweeple or Tw-(insert word here) sounds stupid. It will never sound cool, I agree. That doesn't mean you should dismiss it. You would still order a PET scan if you found it helpful right?
  • Privacy and legal concerns for medical staff abound, but that doesn't mean you have to be a tight-lipped recluse and never share your knowledge. You can be smart about it.
  • You are a busy person.  Lots of people are busy, but a few clicks on your smartphone while waiting for an elevator may not be too much to ask.
  • Using social media to publicly discuss medical issues with patients or families is not a smart idea, despite what idealistic futurists might think.
So if you are willing to at least agree with my points above let's continue.


Phil Baumann (@PhilBaumann (follow him on Twitter!) ) posted a often shared post of 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter which is great for sparking ideas, but after using Twitter frequently for a year I have found the list to not be so exhaustive.  My list has a slightly different context as it is viewed from the professional side and not from the patient side.  So here are my 11 reasons a medical professional should use Twitter:

Networking (with people you do and do not know)
1. Network with medical professionals in their discipline (doctors and doctors)
2. Network with medical professionals outside their discipline (doctors and pharmacists)
3. Network with medical professionals within one's specialty (ER nurses and ER nurses)
4. Network with medical professionals outside one's specialty (ER  nurses and hospice nurses)

Learning:
5. Following search terms related to your field to see what people are saying
6. Finding media reports about one's field to find what your patients might be reading

Supporting:
7. Extending the reach of topics important to you
8. Giving words of support to those in your Twitter network


Influence:
9  Posting journal articles, news, blog posts, conference highlights from others supporting your cause

Educating:
10. Posting links or quotes to talks, articles, blog posts written by you or your team
11. Posting links or quotes to talks, articles, blog posts written by others

Some key aspects of getting to know Twitter is to use it frequently from your phone and your desktop over two weeks and you will start to see how the culture moves.  Here is a simple 9 step list on how to become an intermediate Twitter user.

1. Open a Twitter account
2. Enter all the information in your profile accurately and truthfully including your real name and picture. (Social media thrives on authenticity)
3. Use Twitter search to start following key medical organizations and journals for your discipline/specialty
4. Use Wefollow.com to pick influential twitter users in your discipline/specialty
5. Follow people that follow you if their tweets or profile seem to match your interest
6. Follow Twitter lists of people/orgs that are relevant to your field
6. Get whatever Twitter app for your smartphone is best (just Google Twitter + "your smartphone type")
7. Tweet at least 3 different times during the day, 2-4 tweets each time.
8. Reply to people via twitter using the '@' symbol
9. Retweet other people's content if it is good (and you have actually read it yourself)
Bonus step: Follow me @ctsinclair

For further reference see the Mashable.com Twitter Guidebook