Tracking Twitter: Popularity of radiology-related hashtags has skyrocketed since 2010

The use of radiology-related hashtags on Twitter has jumped significantly in the last several years, according to a new study published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

“Twitter represents a social media platform that is commonly used among radiologists for professional conversations and patient outreach,” wrote author Jeffrey Forris Beecham Chick, MD, MPH, with the department of radiology at the University of Michigan health System in Ann Arbor, and colleagues. “Analyzing Twitter trends with particular attention to content and usage data can provide valuable insights into how social media has grown within the radiology community. The most common conversation topics and communities that require increased outreach can also be analyzed.”

The authors analyzed more than 959,000 tweets containing nine common radiology-related hashtags from Oct. 13, 2010 to Feb. 22, 2018. The hashtags were: #Radiology, #MRI, #ultrasound, #FOAMRad, #IRad, #mammogram, #Radiologia, #RadRes and #imaging.

Overall, the number of tweets containing these nine hashtags increased by 198 percent in 2011, 97 percent in 2012, 65 percent in 2013, 115 percent in 2014, 35 percent in 2015, and 39 percent in 2016. That represents a mean annual increase of 92 percent.

Patients and patient care came up in more than 46 percent of the analyzed tweets, making it the most common topic. Other common topics included cancer (more than 26 percent) and research (more than 9 percent).

Chick et al. noted that healthcare organizations that are not directly providing clinical care made up more than 29 percent of tweets including one of the nine radiology-related hashtags. Patients, meanwhile, were responsible for just 2.9 percent of the tweets.

“The small proportion of patients engaging in the Twitter discussions is discouraging and represents a population that requires increased efforts to promote engagement,” the authors wrote. “Although patient engagement rates on Twitter-related hashtags have been recorded to be as low as 0 percent in other medical specialties, a paradigm shift is required to better incorporate patients into medical discussions on social media.”

Another key finding of the group’s work was that “a highly engaged, but segregated community” of users use Twitter to discuss interventional radiology. This represents an opportunity for all of radiology, the authors explained.

“Efforts should be made to further incorporate interventionalists into the general radiology discussions taking place on Twitter through the use of #Radiology, #imaging, or #FOAMRad (fusion of FOAM and radiology) hashtags,” they wrote. “If the level of activity seen in the interventional radiology community is adopted by the radiology community as a whole, there would be increased opportunities for outreach with patients and other medical specialties.”

Prior Radiology Business coverage of radiology-related hashtags can be read here.