Like a fish emerging from the primeval swamp to take it first breaths on land, something new has emerged from the depths of healthcare social media that could represent an evolutionary step in networking on Twitter.
Interestingly, from my perspective this development has come from two widely separated groups geographically and in two slightly different formats.
Call it Tweet chat with a new voice.
Tweet chats were long the mainstay for healthcare discussions on Twitter fostering both live, interactive discussions of informative health issues and serving as a regular network and community for those who participated on a regular basis.
In its most mature form, Tweet chats involved a well-established hashtag, regular hosts and scheduled times for the chat. A blog was posted online to inform the discussion with a series of questions that were addressed during the chat with moderation by the hosts. However, as these chats were generally administered by dedicated volunteers (think @drlfarrell at #irishmed and @colleen_young at #hcsmca) and topics became repetitive, many of these Tweet chats were retired.
The form lives on successfully with healthcare chats such as #hcldr and #healthxph in the Philippines but in the latter case an evolutionary jump as recently taken place.
Since earlier this year, the dedicated physicians who co-ordinate #healthxph have paired the social media chat with a Twitter Spaces live audio discussion of topics for their regular Sunday chats. Twitter Spaces is the new functionality that allows groups to talk together in real time. An invitational platform called Clubhouse offers very similar functionality.
Now with #healthxph weekly chats, one can discuss the questions raised through tweets as usual/discuss the questions through the audio platform or do both. To improve coordination, #healthxph has a volunteer summarize the points made in the verbal chat and post them as tweets.
At the same time this development was occurring, two physicians (@SGaibrie and @NaheedD), health navigator @Leeanninspires and health advocate @SabiVM launched @hcinCanada, a Twitter account dedicated to hosting chats on Twitter Spaces (although the group initially started the concept with Clubhouse).
Forgoing the traditional trappings of the Tweet chat, the @hcinCanada hosts welcome high-profile guests to discuss socially relevant health policy issues in Canada at a set time using the #hcinCanada hashtag. Some earlier chats have welcomed several hundred participants and after a brief hiatus the group is hosting its 9th chat tonight (June 24) on Truth and Reconciliation in Healthcare.
Combining Twitter and live audio chats has both upsides and downsides. There is a sense of immediacy with actually talking with other people that was lacking with Twitter chats but at the same time having the chat on Twitter allows people to participate who are not comfortable with talking to a group. Being able to talk live from Canada with friends in the Philippines or listen to someone, for instance, relate their experience with COVID-19 in Nepal (as they did last week) is a big plus.
However, the technology with Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse is not yet perfect and connections are often garbled or lost which can be frustrating and detract from the communal experience. Also, without a dedicated scribe such as #healthxph uses, it can be challenging to coordinate the live audio discussion and the tweets. These new hybrid chats also require dedicated and experienced moderators to keep everything moving smoothly.
However it is heartening to see new initiatives such as these re-invigorate the networking experience that healthcare professionals value so highly on Twitter.