The Benefits of Utilizing Twitter During a Global Pandemic and Beyond
Jillian Gregory, DO
Information regarding the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has saturated all media platforms in recent months, providing an overwhelming and often anecdotal account of personal experiences. It can be difficult to sort through the abundance of information. Medical professionals need real time data during a global pandemic to treat patients when standards of care have not been established for a new disease. Social media platforms like Twitter enable health care providers from all disciplines across the world to communicate and share information instantaneously. By utilizing specific hashtags, physicians can acquire guidance and advice from leaders in their field, obtain knowledge from case series, learn about new physical exam findings or sequelae of disease processes, and access relevant evidence-based medicine at no cost during a global pandemic. Users also have the ability to network with healthcare professionals in various sub-specialties across the globe.
In a recently published article in the Pediatric Critical Care Medicine Journal entitled, “Using Social Media for Rapid Information Dissemination in a Pandemic: #PedsICU and Coronavirus Disease 2019”, the authors collected data on all tweets over a four-month period with the hashtag “PedsICU” and “COVID19” (1).
The following results were found:
- All of the most highly shared tweets and links were from individual pediatric critical care stakeholders or established medical organizations and made available as open-access resources.
- As #PedsICU influencers shared studies with their followers, a virtual library was created that updates automatically and is accessible to all.
The authors note that highly tweeted articles are 11 times more likely to be cited (2). In a study of articles randomized to Twitter, their promotion received almost three times as many page visits as controls. Twitter has proven to be a real time way of obtaining and disseminating data amongst healthcare leaders in a specific discipline.
For those not familiar with the platform and how to use it successfully, the faculty development website at Johns Hopkins University has published a “Best Practice and Tips for Physicians” (3). Highlights of this guide include:
- Building and optimizing your profile for search
- Building and monitoring your community
- Engaging with your community and the proper way to use hashtags
- Best practices for formatting a tweet
- FAQs regarding engagement with patients on social media
Evidence-based medicine during a global pandemic can be found on the social media platform Twitter. By following specific hashtags for diseases as well as hashtags associated with popular medical journals, healthcare workers can stay up to date on the myriad of information published on a daily basis. This information can be shared easily amongst followers and provides a global network of opportunity amongst healthcare providers’ when treating patients during a global pandemic. Creating a profile and engaging in this community is easily accessible.
- Kudchadkar SR, Carroll CL. Using Social Media for Rapid Information Dissemination in a Pandemic: #PedsICU and Coronavirus Disease 2019 [published online ahead of print, 2020 May 27]. Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2020;10.1097/PCC.0000000000002474. doi:10.1097/PCC.0000000000002474
- Eysenbach G. Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact [published correction appears in doi:10.2196/jmir.2041]. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13(4):e123. Published 2011 Dec 19. doi:10.2196/jmir.2012
- Twitter best practices: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/fac_development/course_offerings/twitter%20best%20practices.pdf
For further reading:
Barnes SS, Kaul V, Kudchadkar SR. Social Media Engagement and the Critical Care Medicine Community. J Intensive Care Med. 2019;34(3):175‐182. doi:10.1177/0885066618769599