How Twitter can promote interventional radiology, one hashtag at a time

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Social media seemingly never ceases to find new avenues to new audiences. Clinicians and medical professionals alike are starting to experience benefits provided by digitally social interconnectedness. A recent article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology describes the countless benefits provided by Twitter to radiologists—if it's optimized strategically.  

In the study, researchers across the United States explained that an intentional approach to Twitter is vital if radiologist choose to use it. Specifically, the article touched on three main topics in understanding and establishing a "Twitter ecosystem" for interventional radiology (IR): increased awareness and opportunity in IR, academic and education uses of Twitter in IR, and advised caution when using Twitter for medical purposes.   

"Social media outreach using Twitter can increase awareness of IR and its services to a variety of audiences," said study lead author Vibhor Wadhwa, MD, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. "This is of great value, especially for this rapidly expanding yet still not universally understood specialty."  

Wadhwa and his colleagues indicate a handful of advantages Twitter has on raising public awareness about IR as a "consulting clinical specialty":  

  • Increases awareness about IR to individual patients.
  • Allows easy search for reliable information and builds digital communities.
  • Demonstrates different minimally invasive treatments.
  • Allows patients can seek out their own specialists.
  • Provides real-time global interaction between an individual, patient or physician.
  • Spreads information by "retweeting" a post, comment, or image.
  • Provides a consistent platform for healthcare advocacy groups to inform patients and physicians.  
  • Builds national and international connectivity between IR physicians, trainees and other specialty physicians. 
  • Lets IR physicians, trainees and specialty physicians share clinical information and job opportunities.  

The non-exclusive accessibly of Twitter provides a community for physicians and trainees of all levels of expertise and experience to come together, eliminating hierarchical boundaries within and between fields, according to the study. According to researchers, Twitter can also be a liaison in connecting physician, patients and research facilities for clinical trial enrollment.  

Although Wadhwa and his colleagues believe Twitter has the capacity to build a digital community of like-minded individuals and create "a culture of open inquiry" among interventional radiologists, the researchers recommend a reasonable amount of caution and a strong sense of focus.  

"The overwhelming amount of content on social media may cause an IR new to Twitter to impulsively post material that may be unrelated to their area of focus, or, even worse, completely inappropriate," Wadhwa concludes. "A good guideline to ensure that tweets are appropriate is if the tweeter is not willing to show the tweet to a patient, it probably should not be tweeted out. It is also important to remember patient confidentiality: Patients and their families should never be able to specifically identify themselves in any post."