In the Journals

Despite limitations, Twitter benefits infectious disease specialists

Infectious disease specialists should familiarize themselves with Twitter so that they may educate fellow users and disseminate breaking news within the field, according to an article recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“The ‘always-on’ culture of today is accustomed to bite-sized, on-demand learning,” Debra A. Goff, PharmD, FCCP, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, clinical scientific director at Cubist Pharmaceuticals; and Jason G. Newland, MD, MEd, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote. “The decades-long tradition of using textbooks to answer ID-related questions has been replaced by medical apps for smartphones and UpToDate, an online database. There is also a need among [health care professionals (HCPs)] to deliver easily accessible, real-time, pertinent information to peers around the world. Twitter can meet this need.”

The researchers wrote that the leading reason HCPs may not use Twitter is a perceived lack of time to learn and use the medium. Along with providing an introduction to new users, including basics such as establishing an account, following other users and using a hashtag to filter content, they recommended a daily Twitter routine of as little as 5 minutes to be ideal for busy practitioners.

Jason Newland

Jason G. Newland

Even this brief time can improve communications between HCPs, they wrote, with one cited survey suggesting that Twitter was a more time-efficient means for physicians to catch up on peer-reviewed information they may not have been able to discover otherwise.

“Twitter has become a daily part of many HCPs’ lives, allowing them to communicate real-time health care information and medical alerts to a large global audience,” they wrote. “It is quite apparent that discussions about ID are a worldwide topic where Twitter has been a key resource in conversing with others about significant ID topics.”

While Twitter has been shown to greatly amplify the spread of study results, meeting news data and scientific articles to professionals and lay users, the researchers noted a few potential risks that come with the platform. Chief among these were case discussions that may violate patient confidentiality, statements that may conflict with employer policy, and the inability to provide specific medical advice due to the 140 character limit.

“Twitter, like all social media, is susceptible to misinformation,” they wrote. “Clinicians must guard against spreading erroneous or questionable information while establishing trust with their audience.

“To combat lack of trust, it is important to follow reputable individuals by ensuring that the person has a photo and biography along with a profile. Further, only links and information that are from reliable sources should be retweeted.”

Disclosures: Kullar reports being employed by and owning stock in Cubist Pharmaceuticals. The other researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

Infectious disease specialists should familiarize themselves with Twitter so that they may educate fellow users and disseminate breaking news within the field, according to an article recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

“The ‘always-on’ culture of today is accustomed to bite-sized, on-demand learning,” Debra A. Goff, PharmD, FCCP, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Ravina Kullar, PharmD, MPH, clinical scientific director at Cubist Pharmaceuticals; and Jason G. Newland, MD, MEd, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, wrote. “The decades-long tradition of using textbooks to answer ID-related questions has been replaced by medical apps for smartphones and UpToDate, an online database. There is also a need among [health care professionals (HCPs)] to deliver easily accessible, real-time, pertinent information to peers around the world. Twitter can meet this need.”

The researchers wrote that the leading reason HCPs may not use Twitter is a perceived lack of time to learn and use the medium. Along with providing an introduction to new users, including basics such as establishing an account, following other users and using a hashtag to filter content, they recommended a daily Twitter routine of as little as 5 minutes to be ideal for busy practitioners.

Jason Newland

Jason G. Newland

Even this brief time can improve communications between HCPs, they wrote, with one cited survey suggesting that Twitter was a more time-efficient means for physicians to catch up on peer-reviewed information they may not have been able to discover otherwise.

“Twitter has become a daily part of many HCPs’ lives, allowing them to communicate real-time health care information and medical alerts to a large global audience,” they wrote. “It is quite apparent that discussions about ID are a worldwide topic where Twitter has been a key resource in conversing with others about significant ID topics.”

While Twitter has been shown to greatly amplify the spread of study results, meeting news data and scientific articles to professionals and lay users, the researchers noted a few potential risks that come with the platform. Chief among these were case discussions that may violate patient confidentiality, statements that may conflict with employer policy, and the inability to provide specific medical advice due to the 140 character limit.

“Twitter, like all social media, is susceptible to misinformation,” they wrote. “Clinicians must guard against spreading erroneous or questionable information while establishing trust with their audience.

“To combat lack of trust, it is important to follow reputable individuals by ensuring that the person has a photo and biography along with a profile. Further, only links and information that are from reliable sources should be retweeted.”

Disclosures: Kullar reports being employed by and owning stock in Cubist Pharmaceuticals. The other researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.