Twitter and health care - can a tweet a day keep the doctor away?

New Rochelle 24 August 2009Twitter, the increasingly popular social networking tool that was at first merely a convenient way to stay in touch with friends and family, is emerging as a potentially valuable means of real-time, on-the-go communication of health care information and medical alerts, as described in a feature article in the Medical Connectivity section of the latest issue of Telemedicine and e-Health, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert Inc., and the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association.


Physician groups, hospitals, and health care organisations are discovering a range of beneficial applications for using Twitter to communicate timely information both within the medical community and to patients and the public. Short messages, or "tweets", delivered through Twitter go out from a sender to a group of recipients simultaneously, providing a fast and easy way to reach a lot of people in a short time.

This has obvious advantages for sharing time-critical information such as disaster alerts and drug safety warnings, tracking disease outbreaks, or disseminating health care information. Twitter applications are available to help patients find out about clinical trials, for example, or to link brief news alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reliable websites that provide more detailed information.

The use of social media and Internet-based outlets such as Twitter to communicate medical information requires a high degree of caution, however, to preserve confidentiality and patient privacy in the clinical care setting, and to ensure that information sources are accurate, reliable, and current.

"One way to look at Twitter is as a method of mass communication", stated Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Director of the Center for Connected Health, Partners Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts, who is quoted in the article. Twitter is real-time and was designed for mobility, noted Dr. Kvedar. It allows people to "text 30 people or 50 or 100 people, whatever the number is who are following you".

Telemedicine and e-Health is the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. The Journal is co-edited by Ronald C. Merrell, MD, Professor of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University and Charles R. Doarn, MBA, Associate Professor of Public Health Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, University of Cincinnati. Telemedicine and e-Health is an international, peer-reviewed journal combining medicine, telecommunications, and information technology. Published 10 times a year in print and on-line, the Journal includes empirical research, descriptive case studies, policy analysis, and articles on technical design and communications protocols.

Mary Ann Liebert Inc. is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research, including Population Health Management and Journal of Laparoendoscopic Surgery and Advanced Surgical Techniques. Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide.

The feature article on Twitter and health care is available free on-line at the Mary Ann Liebert website.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert Inc./Genetic Engineering News

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