Why Doctors & Nurses Need Twitter

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

I use Twitter and I like it.  As a registered nurse, twitter helps me promote health and wellness and it helps me educate the public on vital health topics.

It allows me to tweet about an upcoming radio show,  link to informative websites and blogs, or retweet (RT) a tweet.

I can read about the latest breaking health news, learn about the latest in health 2.0 and sometimes it simply allows me connect with colleagues and consumers in a fun and friendly fashion.

Twitter has become a source for obtaining the latest news and information.  Short snippets of info flow to and fro faster than you can say “uncle.”

In 140 characters or less you can say what you need to say.  While some tweets aren’t relevant, I mean really, do we need to know that you’ve waiting in a long line at Starbucks for your café  latte?  No, but sometimes the mundane tweets helps humanize you a bit.


When a Tweet passes my way that is directed from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN (@sanjayguptacnn), Gwenn O’Keefe, MD, (@drgwenn),  Jennifer Shu, MD (@livingwelldoc), Val Jones, MD (@drval),  Kevin Pho, MD (@kevinmd), CDC, (@cdcemergency), Daniel Sands, MD (@DrDannySands),  or American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), (@emergencydocs); just to name a few, I can feel good knowing that the 140 characters or less of info is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

Educate the Public

Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals can provide accurate,complete, reliable and trustworthy health information.

Tweeting is the perfect opportunity to help educate the public.

I asked three doctors who use twitter to share their thoughts.  Here’s what they said:

Kevin Pho, MD, a primary care physician and a nationally recognized medical commentator who publishes provocative medical commentary at KevinMD.com

Twitter offers an opportunity for doctors to provide instant feedback, faster than they can even from blogging.  This can range from providing updates on surgery, which Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital has done, to giving opinions on the latest, breaking studies.  Twitter can provide more transparency to what goes on in the physician’s world, and allow both patients and other doctors to interact with one another in a quick, convenient way.

Gwenn O’Keefe, MD, pediatrician and editor, pediatricsnow.com

When we graduate medical school and say the modern Hippocratic oath, we promise to not only do no harm but care for people by respecting the society in which they live. Like it or not, technology is part of that society so we have a responsibility to not only respect it but learn it and use it for the greater good of family health in whatever ways necessary and on whatever platforms are available.

Daniel Z. Sands, MD, Director of Medical Informatics at Cisco IBSG and a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center –

By following tweets from health information sources that they trust, people can get general health tips, preventive health information, disease specific information, and even suggestions about to be more engaged in their healthcare. You might also get health coaching from a health professional, a health coach, or even peers (“Did you exercise today?” “I walked 5110 steps today-how many did you walk?”).

The take-away message

Everyone needs to be alert regarding the tweets they receive.  Just because a tweet is about a health topic, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

Health consumers need to check the source.  Doctors and nurses can help educate the public on vital health topics with information that is accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

You can follow me on twitter @barbaraficarra.  Thanks!

This topic continues on today’s Health in 30 Radio Show on WRCR at 12:30 pm EST.  Kevin Pho, MD will join me to talk about “Doctors and Social Media.”  For more info please go to Healthin30.com.

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  1. 1

    I completely agree. Twitter offers a unique view into health care. Personally I feel it is a great tool for patients to connect with national experts on a way that really isn’t possible in any other social media system. Not only that, Twitter allows for the collegiality of the health care industry to be greatly enhanced by connecting experts with each other. I have found many many excellent people in my field and now am able to participate in Health IT discussions that were not possible before Twitter.

    With the value of Twitter in mind, I have created a Health Care Professional’s Social Media List here with over 800 health care pros listed so far:

  2. 2

    I completely agree. Twitter offers the health care community a resource that didn’t exist before Twitter. Not only do patients have the ability to connect with providers, but the health care community has been given a new tool to share best practices. We are now able to freely connect with other professionals in the same specialties and learn from each other.

    In the spirit of collegiality, I have built a health care professionals list for Twitter, LinkedIN, Facebook, etc on http://healthtechnica.com/blogsphere/clinical-medical-users/ The list is over 800 strong and is growing ever day.

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