Are Doctors Causing Trouble by Tweeting at Conventions?

Leigh Page


January 10, 2018

In This Article

How Many Physicians Use Twitter at Conferences?

Use of Twitter at medical conferences has been skyrocketing. In just 2 years (2013-2015), there was a fourfold increase in the number of tweets from conferences hosted by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.[5]

Most attendees at medical conferences, however, don't use Twitter. An online Medscape poll in June 2017 found that 38% use Twitter at conferences, while just 10% posted or tweeted texts or photos. The other 28% apparently just read tweets.[6]

"A small number of tweets generate a lot of buzz," Joseph Kim, MD, a continuing medical education provider in Newtown, Pennsylvania, observes. In fact, at the 2015 annual assembly of the American Society of Neuroradiology, just three tweeters generated half the tweets, according to a 2016 study.[7]

However, these small groups of tweeters can have a very large following outside the convention halls. Twitter users at the 2016 AHA scientific sessions logged nearly 300 million "impressions"—the total number of views of tweets, according to a report.[8] Almost 18,000 people attended the meeting, but that figure was dwarfed by virtual attendance.

"Twitter has rapidly become the preferred social media engagement tool and is now an essential activity at many large radiology society meetings," concluded a 2017 study on Twitter use at meetings.[9]

Some Conferences Embrace Twitter, Many Don't

A few conferences actively encourage the use of Twitter. Dr Campbell, who is a meeting-tweeter with many followers, says that cardiology groups pioneered tweeting at meetings. He says the American College of Cardiology, the AHA, and the Heart Rhythm Society actually urge presenters to connect with their audience on social media.

At some meetings, "hallways and foyers are equipped with large screens displaying all meeting-related tweets posted from inside or outside the venue," a 2016 report stated. At the American Society of Neuroradiology meeting, it added, "presenters are encouraged to share their Twitter handles with the audience during opening remarks so that the handle can be used to quote, paraphrase, or discuss the work."[7]

But there are many more examples of conferences setting limits on Twitter use. "Surprisingly few conferences are actively encouraging scientists to tweet," a 2014 evaluation reported. "More likely this is due to ignorance of the potential [of Twitter] rather than the possibility of loss of attendee revenue."[10]


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