I am a physician, clinical researcher, and educator.
I am also on Twitter and tweet under the handle @EMARIANOMD.
Naturally you may ask: “How does Twitter fit into a physician’s academic career?” Many of my colleagues consider this a waste of time. Some of the benefits that Twitter offers doctors have been described previously by Dr. Brian Secemsky and Dr. Marjorie Stiegler among others, including me. Here are a few more reasons to consider:
- Global Conversation: Through Twitter I interact with people from around the world with similar interests. Participating in Twitter chats like #healthxph or #hcldr can foster innovative ideas that may lead to research questions or other educational opportunities. I participated in a recent #healthxph chat about healthcare change management. Thirteen countries were represented (map courtesy of TweepsMap)!
- Opportunities for Collaboration: As a physician anesthesiologist specializing in acute pain medicine, I often tweet about anesthesia and pain management for common surgeries. As a result of my tweeting on #kneereplacement, I was invited by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brian Hatten, to revise the anesthesia information page on his site, My Knee Guide, a powerful and popular online portal for people considering or undergoing knee replacement surgery.
- Search Optimization: On multiple occasions, I have found research articles that my traditional PubMed searches have missed through the tweets posted by colleagues. I have even been able to relocate certain articles faster on Twitter than PubMed when I know they have been tweeted. Researchers can think of hashtags (starting with “#”) essentially like keywords in the academic world. I periodically check #anesthesia, #meded, #pain, and #kneereplacement for new articles related to my research interests.
- Lifelong Learning: Today, it’s difficult to even keep up with new articles just in my own subspecialty. Through Twitter, I can follow journals, professional societies, colleagues with similar interests, and patients who share their experiences going through various surgeries and illnesses. I honestly feel that my breadth of knowledge has increased beyond what I would have acquired on my own.
- Research Promotion: As a clinical researcher, my hope is that my study results will ultimately affect the care of patients. Through Twitter, I can alert my followers when our research group publishes an article. I also get feedback and “peer review” from colleagues around the world. Since I started tweeting in 2013, citations of my published articles (a traditional metric in academics) have increased. Perhaps there are other factors involved, but I fully believe that Twitter has played a role.
- Enriched Conference Experience: A growing trend at medical conferences is “live-tweeting” the meeting (1, 2). One of my own issues when I attend or present at conferences is that I feel like I miss much of the meeting due to scheduling conflicts. By living vicariously through my colleagues’ tweets, I can pick up pearls of wisdom from speakers in other sessions even while sitting in a different hall. I can also “virtually” attend conferences by following tweets under the hashtags of meetings like #PCP15 in the Philippines or #AMEE2015 in Scotland in the comfort of my own home.
I often get asked: “Does anyone really care if I tweet what I eat for breakfast?” Probably not. The truth is that you don’t have to tweet anything at all if you don’t want to. Up to 44% of Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet. I love this quote from Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty) tweeted at #AMEE2015:
“Twitter is about the power of your network…a rushing river you dip in and out of.”
I will admit that getting started is intimidating, but I encourage you to try it if you haven’t already. I promise that you won’t regret it, and chances are that you’ll be very happy you did. Of course, to be a physician actively engaged on Twitter requires respect for patient privacy and professionalism. I recommend following Dr. John Mandrola’s 10 rules for doctors on social media. If you’re still too worried to take the leap, I suggest reading these tips from Marie Ennis-O’Connor to boost your confidence. AT LEAST SIGN UP, RESERVE YOUR HANDLE, AND OBSERVE.
- Ekins S, Perlstein EO. Ten simple rules of live tweeting at scientific conferences. PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Aug 21;10(8):e1003789.
- Djuricich AM, Zee-Cheng JE. Live tweeting in medicine: ‘Tweeting the meeting’. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2015 Apr;27(2):133-9.