What can Twitter and social media offer health care?

This post first appeared on Croakey

Twitter has been in the news in Australia recently. Mainly due to The Australian newspaper outing a pseudonymous blogger and recently threatening to sue a journalism academic. A view that seems to have been taken by some in the media is that Twitter is full of anonymous troublemakers defaming away left, right and centre.

The AMA recently released a guide, Social Media and the Medical Profession. It gained a moderate amount of media attention but was met with some scepticism on Twitter. Why?

The 14-page guide has a lot of sensible practical and legal advice for medical practitioners using social media. The problem is that in doing so it focuses on almost entirely on the risks of using social media.

Maintaining privacy, professional boundaries and limiting defamation are major themes. As one person said about the guide, “it’s “more scary than constructive I think”.

The benefits of using social media are glossed over in the guide. These are often dismissed by people who don’t use social media but they can be profound:

Status 1

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Social media has enabled us to find out new professional information, be exposed to new ideas, engage in professional debates and extend our networks. The three of us met through using Twitter – a connection that was unlikely to occur through other means. Online discussion about the AMA guide acted as a catalyst for setting up an Australian forum for discussing health and social media.

We have set up #hcsmanz, an online discussion group about healthcare and social media in Australia and New Zealand. It’s based on the successful HCSM discussions that already run in the US and the EU.

We held our first  “Tweetup” on Sunday, December 5, to discuss the AMA guide. We had about 20 participants from nursing, medicine, pharmacy, public health, IT and other fields. You can read the transcripts here.

Some interesting resources were shared including:

We’ll be holding regular discussions every Sunday evening at 22:00NZ, 20:00AEDT, 19:00AEST, 19:30ACDT, 17:00AWST.

You can participate simply by post a tweet using the #hcsmanz hashtag. If you wish to know more send a message to @ej_butler, @bitethedust,  or @hiablog, or follow @hcsmanz on Twitter.

Social media is more than risks. It’s quick, it’s interactive, it’s a discussion. Most importantly, it’s fun. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Ben Harris-Roxas, Andrew Roberts & Ed Butler

Ben Harris-Roxas works in public health at UNSW in Sydney. Andrew Roberts is a pharmacist in remote Central Australia. Ed Butler works in healthcare IT in Brisbane. They convene the #hcsmanz chat and met through Twitter.

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