Using Twitter to discuss interventional radiology? Make sure you know this hashtag

As the influence of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook grows, healthcare specialists have started adopting specific hashtags on those platforms to reach the largest number of users possible. In interventional radiology (IR), for instance, the preferred hashtag is #IRad. Researchers tracked the evolution of that hashtag on Twitter, publishing their results in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

The authors studied more than 61,00 tweets featuring #IRad composed from Jan. 8, 2015, to Oct. 13, 2017. Overall, the number of tweets with the hashtag increased by 182 percent in 2016 and 76 percent in 2017. Use of #IRad increased by 295 percent in 2016 and 124 percent in 2017.

“The dramatic increase in the number of users, tweets, and impressions involving the #IRad hashtag likely reflects the overall trend in IR activity on Twitter,” wrote Ravi N. Srinivasa, MD, department of radiology at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, and colleagues. “No other IR–related hashtag has had similar or greater use since Twitter was established, suggesting that the #IRad hashtag encompasses the majority of the tagged IR discussions on Twitter. Given the ongoing success and popularity of this hashtag to document IR tweets, continued use of this hashtag is advised.”

The authors also analyzed how often tweets were retweeted—or, instantly shared by another user—and how many had replies. While more than 65 percent of tweets including the hashtag were retweeted, just 2.8 percent had replies.

Diving deeper into the data, Srinivasa et al. found that physicians were responsible for more than 47 percent of all tweets featuring #IRad. Patients were responsible for less than 1 percent, showing room for improvement.

“Other disciplines have used Twitter as a tool to garner patient interest and support for their specialty and have been successful in establishing a network for patients to seek credible medical information from board-certified physicians,” the authors wrote. “Therefore, Twitter may be an underutilized resource for interventional radiologists.”

Future efforts to increase patient involvement and get other specialties to take part in the conversation, Srinivasa and colleagues concluded, could help “stimulate interest and support” for interventional radiology.