Doctors who aren’t on Twitter are missing out. Really.
That conclusion came through loud and clear from recent conversations I had with several physicians in the small Ontario city of Kingston recently. These individuals represented the whole spectrum of the medical profession from student, to primary care community care doc to specialists and academic teachers.
Given that only an estimated 1 in 10 Canadian doctors uses Twitter even now, it was somewhat surprising how adamant these physicians were about the benefits of the tool for medical professionals, as well as patients and the public.
They were very clear that they felt Twitter represented a unique channel for providing new connectivity between doctors, between medical teachers and students, and between physicians and other members of the community.
Many of those I interviewed had come to Twitter via non-medical routes – one initially used Twitter for traffic reports, another to connect with fellow fans of the television show ‘Lost’ and one had become hooked when they followed my own 23-hour ordeal when stranded at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport this winter. Others had been introduced to the tool by colleagues or had deliberately chosen to use Twitter for research or information-gathering purposes.
But what all had in common was that they had come to acknowledge the value of Twitter in their professional lives.
For these physicians, Twitter is providing an-easy-to-manage tool to build connections that had not existed in the past. This included using Twitter as another route to assist in the referral process for patients between family doctors and specialists; as a way to organize easy access to medical literature or other key medical organizations; to provide ‘value added’ information to medical students who chose to follow them; or to assist in gaining knowledge from international medical conferences.
These doctors felt that Twitter is just one of a number of technological innovations that are fundamentally changing the practice of medicine and while some of those interviewed could be called ‘academics’ these changes were certainly more than ‘academic’ in nature.
The message was clear – ignore Twitter and other innovations in health information technology at your peril. What may seem like time-wasting and frivolous activities may actually be tomorrow’s standard of practice.
(BTW, The title of this piece comes from a 1932 song and is worth looking up on YouTube)