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Why in the world would Healthcare Organizations use Twitter?

The purpose of this blog is to show you why Twitter is an important tool for Healthcare Organizations and Healthcare Professionals

What exactly IS Twitter?
Twitter is a free social network that allows a user to either write online posts (limited to 140 characters) or read them – over 500 million active users to date.  Here’s how you get started

Create a profile
Give a short handle to state who you are
Upload a photo
Provide a short description of the yourself
Start to follow organizations that you are interested in

Check out this video on a successful use of Twitter for Healthcare Organizations and Professionals
This video addresses the large scale population that can be reached on Twitter by the medical director of Cardiology of the Mayo Clinic.  He emphasizes the importance of Twitter to the Healthcare community: it has a broad reach, easy access, and high usability.  These are all great qualities when considering how to makes the best use of your time and money as a Healthcare Organization.  

Here’s a great video explaining why Healthcare Managers should be on Twitter.
One of the points that he emphasis that I think is crucial to understand is that Twitter is not only about SHARING it’s about LEARNING – now that’s a new way to think about it!
He also focuses on the fact that with all of the time constraints managers have today, Twitter can help simplify information to do the job better – quick tips versus lengthy articles.  Who has time to read long articles today? (Except of course if you’re a student? :OP)
Having the option to only follow organizations that you choose to follow helps categorize and narrow down the information that you, as a Healthcare Professional, are genuinely interested in.  
He also points out that Twitter has become the source of real-time and breaking news, and being in the profession of Healthcare that is an important source to be a part of.  
Not only that but professional associations are sharing articles and information.  How much easier is it to have all of the organizations you are interested in on one site versus visiting each of them individually?  
The great thing about Twitter is that it can be used efficiently in only 5 minutes a day!  Time is money, they say 🙂

How can twitter be useful for Health Organizations?

It’s an opportunity to deliver information directly to people who actually want to receive it without having to have a large budget set aside for advertising, or waiting for the media to cover the organization.
 Help amplify a message by reaching target audiences quickly and easily
Can help strengthen the reputation of both the organization and area of work

Twitter benefits the Healthcare Professional as well

An effective tool to engage in colleagues
Can disseminate important and timely news
It is a resource to large audiences
Increases awareness of issues
Build and Strengthen networks

There certainly are many reasons why a Healthcare Organization or a Healthcare Professional should get involved with Twitter.  Being able to do so much with such little funding, time and effort is certainly to the benefit of the provider.  Having the ability to share information in real time allows it to be current and much more useful to those who follow.  Having the ability to network with other organizations and healthcare professions opens up a communication forum that is simple yet effective.  The younger generation is online more and more, and Healthcare Organizations have to tap into their world.

Top 10 suggestions for tweeting effectively

Include relevant and interesting content – don’t be boring
Be informative and engage the audience – get information as well as feedback
Keep it short – so others can re-tweet you
Give credit where credit is deserved – you’ll get re-tweeted more if you do
There is no rule as to how often you should tweet
Be involved in the conversations and mention partners/organizations
Use hashtags such as #healthcare for others to find your message easier
Tweet in the afternoon it’s the best time to do so
Provide links – don’t just give a piece of the information give your followers a way to find out more
By all means, please, use proper grammar and don’t use abbreviations (because not everyone knows them!)
These tips will allow you to be a better tweeter, which will lead you more followers, and broaden the audience you wish to serve.  Keep it interesting, simple, and yet informative.

Here is an infographic to help you with your Twitter account
It’s a bit overwhelming at first but once you take one section at a time it will help your Healthcare Organization, or you the Healthcare Professional, create smart and effective tweets.  Here are some highlights

There’s a Handle (user name account) which helps you decide who to follow versus the Hashtag which a keyword or topic (the top 10-15 are considered the current trend)
80% of what you tweet should be conversations and only 20% should promos
Join your own tweet subjects to keep them active
Focus on your passion – it will encourage the audience to see you as the influencer in the industry
Remove pointless words from your tweet – keep it short and sweet

But, sometimes you have to be careful not to read your feedback incorrectly.  Monitor it Carefully.  Here’s an example of what can happen if you don’t.

An article posted about the Chicago Department of Public Health used Twitter because it « reaches groups not widely reached by traditional media and its use is growing in the U.S. and globally. »  That sounds great right?
They released a series of tweets about a policy that would ban electronic cigarettes and received hundreds of feedback tweets against the policy it was trying to regulate.  
They received great response, but found that a large percentage of users were against the policy but also NOT local.  The locals actually were in favor of the policy.  The opinion of the locals was NOT represented by the feedback because it was overwhelmingly represented by 90% of people from other cities (non-locals).  
Lesson learned « professionals should be aware of these sorts of coordinated responses to controversial topics and recognize that the sentiment expressed may not be that of their local constituency. »  
Though it may sound a bit overwhelming the city still got feedback of what the majority of the public things about this topic and still learned from the experience.  At the end of the day it is a great way to create an interaction – whether for education, survey, feedback, or information.  It’s a simple forum that is easy to follow and share.  That ease helps create discussion at a fast pace, and the world of healthcare certainly changes quickly enough for Twitter to be an effective tool for that!

One of ways Twitter creates discussion is with Healthcare Tweet Chats
Remember the #hashtag discussed earlier?  In simple terms, hashtags cluster conversations together about a specific topic. has an important link to connect Healthcare Organizations or Healthcare Professionals:

Healthcare Hashtag Project  
Where healthcare conversations are taking place
Is a place where you can be discovered and followed within your specialty or disease
Where you can see what healthcare topics are trending in real-time
Typically has multiple tweet chats going on at any given point in time

Symplur aims to utilize Healthcare Social Media and Twitter to make the healthcare community more accessible as a whole.

By utilizing hashtags, the site is attempting to bring together conversations of interest and importance regardless of where healthcare communities live and what time zone they live in.  With social media and faster internet Symplur has found a dramatic upsurge in healthcare communication which can « bring incredible value by segmenting, analyzing and curating online healthcare discussions to answer unique questions and needs. »  

Can you imagine being a physician wanting to have a discussion about a healthcare topic that has you perplexed with anyone, from anywhere in the world, with experiences that you don’t have and find answers in a matter of seconds?
Can you imagine being a part of the hashtag phenomenon wanting to market your product and finding doctors from around the world who are interested without having to step foot outside your office?
Can you imagine holding a conference about a topic with people from all over the wold simply by using a hashtag?
It’s all possible.  Twitter has the ability to connect Healthcare Professionals in a way that many other social media don’t.  Twitter has a way to market a Healthcare Organization and collect information from consumers, gain feedback and share information – for free.