March 17, 2019
2 min read

Q&A: Twitter as a tool for infectious disease clinicians

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Debbie Goff, PharmD
Debra A. Goff

Twitter has become a “go-to” social media platform to disseminate information and create conversation. Four years ago, researchers reviewed the usefulness of Twitter for infectious disease clinicians and found it to be a useful tool.

Since then, Twitter use has increased, Debra A. Goff, PharmD, FCCP, an ID specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and colleagues noted in an updated review of Twitter’s usefulness that was recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Infectious Disease News spoke with Goff about how ID organizations are using Twitter, the role the platform can play in outbreaks and how tweeting can impact antimicrobial stewardship. – by Marley Ghizzone

What characteristics make Twitter so useful in ID?

Twitter allows anyone to engage, connect, learn and educate anyone at anytime from anywhere in the world. It has no borders.

How do you use Twitter?

I use Twitter to advocate for engagement in antibiotic stewardship. I educate others by sharing articles or links to PubMed abstracts. I engage with people to learn from others who have expertise in different areas. I connect and collaborate in research. It is one of the most powerful tools to engage people from around the world in meaningful real-time discussions about antibiotic resistance and stewardship. Unlike journal articles, on Twitter, people can express their opinions on various topics.

Social media is all about supporting each other and being "social." I like to engage with clinicians and people who are not in ID (surgeons, hospitalists, critical care, oncologists, digital health innovators and others). When I find a compelling article in one of my ID journals that has relevance to surgeons, such as a discussion of Clostridioides difficile infections (CDIs), I will tweet it and include several surgeons’ Twitter handles. They will retweet my tweet, which helps spread the information to a wide network of surgeons.

I do not give medical advice or engage with people who are rude and disrespectful.

How are ID organizations using the platform?

The Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP) designated several of its members to tweet about new information during IDWeek in 2018. @SIDPharm was a top influencer at the IDWeek national conference by “live tweeting” breaking news in real time and extending the reach of new data beyond the walls of the meeting. The Peggy Lillis Foundation (@PeggyFund) is a CDI awareness organization educating the public. It tweets on various topics about CDI, including patient testimonies that provide powerful engagement and education to consumers.


What role can Twitter play during an outbreak?

During the Ebola epidemic, the CDC used Twitter to disseminate factual information in real time about the disease. It was an effective tool for CDC experts to dispel many myths and misinformation that were being shared worldwide.

How can Twitter be used for antimicrobial stewardship?

Antibiotic resistance is a global health care problem that needs global collaboration. Twitter has no hierarchy or barriers. I have found it very useful to connect with stewards around the world. [Antimicrobial stewardship programs] can also join in a Twitter chat session, where the host will post questions and people can tweet a reply or ask the experts questions. SIDP member @ASP_chat leads a Twitter chat session every third Thursday of the month from 7 to 8 p.m. ET using the #ASPchat hashtag. The CDC hosts a Twitter chat during Antibiotic Awareness Week.


Goff DA, et al. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30058-1.

Disclosure : Goff reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Note: Goff tweets under the handle @ idpharmd . Infectious Disease News’s Twitter handle is @InfectDisNews.