Is Twitter a "Must" for Doctors, or Just the Latest Fad?

Andrew E. Craig, MSN, FNP-C

Disclosures

December 22, 2009

In This Article

Introduction

Twitter, a social networking service, is one of the latest online tools available for staying in touch. It can also be a useful professional tool for physicians.

Why would a physician be interested in Twitter? Because it has several potential uses to foster communication with your patients and promote your practice.

One such use would be sharing practice information, eg, weather-related office closings, a special your practice is running on sports physicals for back-to-school week, or a link to a story about a recent clinical trial relevant to your type of practice. Medical journals and organizations use Twitter to tweet links to stories of interest as they first become available. Teaching hospitals are even using Twitter to tweet the teaching points and details of surgeries in progress.

As you browse Twitter, you will notice that there are several types of users. Organizations like large companies and government agencies use Twitter to disseminate information quickly to large groups of people. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several feeds that you can follow, including one on pandemic H1N1 flu. This is a great way to stay up to date on the latest flu information and treatment recommendations. Likewise, news agencies and media outlets use Twitter to provide links to breaking news stories.

In this regard, Twitter is similar to subscribing to a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, which is a type of streaming text-based news feed. One distinction between Twitter and RSS is that Twitter can also be easily used by individuals who tweet back and forth with their groups of friends and colleagues to share what they are doing in real time. In addition, RSS feeds are typically set up to be received in an email program or Web browser; Twitter can be run from a mobile device like a smartphone without involving an email account. Unlike emails that continue to accumulate until you read or delete them, tweets can be read as you like, or just ignored. They do not build up!

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