Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, a family physician and associate program director of the Duke University Family Medicine Residency Program, produces an online Population Health Daily newsletter focused on the socioeconomic determinants of health (http://paper.li/vivimbmd/1317782675).
Yesterday, one of the top stories in the newsletter was attributed to me. It dealt with a blog posting from the Canadian Pharmacists Association commenting favourably on a recent report on the social determinants of health produced by the Canadian Medical Association, the association for which I work.
Martinez-Bianchi and I do not follow each other on Twitter and I am not sure of how much overlap I have with her 964 followers. But using the paper.li tool she scooped up one of my twitter links because it concerned the focus of her newsletter – the social determinants of health.
The point is, this is not an unusual occurrence and I like to think it reflects one of the main benefits I bring to actively monitoring and contributing to Twitter. I rarely publish original research and am not a peer leader in the academic sense as I have no standing at any university (and an honours bachelor of journalism rarely trumps a PhD when it comes to being an authoritative voice on health care issues).
However, myself and many others, I think, perform and valuable function by linking people with information they might not otherwise access. We are the connective tissue that bring together people and new ideas in the social media space.
Whereas journalism has always played this role in a bigger sense by pushing out information to large audiences, social media allows this to happen on a much more timely basis and at the level of the individual. You pick and choose who you want to follow on Twitter or Facebook and you absorb the information those you follow provide, at a level that is useful to you.
Of course, engaging and interacting with others on social media and contributing to the conversations and debates that are taking place is the other big part of this. But with so many choosing to just watch and follow the Twitter feeds, I think the role of being connective tissue is not one that should be underestimated. Surely the health care community is a better informed place as a result.