Friday, May 22, 2009

How Physicians (Should) Use Twitter

by Michael Lara, MD
Source: BrainTwits of Michael Lara, MD

Will Twitter change the way physicians practice medicine?

Probably not.

Does Twitter have any practical uses in the late-adopting tribe that is modern medicine?


As an early-adopter with all things technical, I've found Twitter to be a useful adjunct to my private medical practice. Along the way, I've stumbled upon a few practical, time-saving techniques for integrating Twitter into an office-based medical practice.

Generally speaking, Twitter use falls under three categories:

As a Tool For Information Collection:

As A Tool for Information Sharing:
As a Tool for Communications Regarding Direct Patient Care:
  • Physician-to-team member about non-urgent matters
  • Office staff-to-patient about appointment reminders
I've also found that there are several scenarios where Twitter should NOT be used:
  • To communicate directly with patients and their families
  • To communicate with anyone regarding matters that require urgent or timely action
  • To answer inquiries from anyone regarding details about patient care, even if from a recognized Twitter account.
Furthermore, under no circumstances should patients be referred to by name or other identifiable means, even via Direct Messages.

For Twitter to work as a viable tool in an office-based medical practice, everyone should have a basic understanding of how Twitter works. Every team member, for example, should understand the difference between a Direct Message and the Public Timeline. Our rule is to tweet only via Direct Messages, but assume that the tweet will be on the Public Timeline.

Another Twitter tenet is understanding how and when key team members integrate Twitter into their work day. For example, key members of my teams and office staff know that I tweet from 5:00 am to 5:30 am and again from 7:00 pm-7:30 pm. Team members also understand that some of my tweets are distributed throughout the day (I use TweetLater), so even though my tweets might be appearing during the workday, I'm not necessarily tweeting live.

There are, no doubt, other potential ways of integrating twitter into an office-based medical practice.

Any other ideas? Please share them by clicking here and commenting on the original post.
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