To maximize benefits of social media, radiologists must know their #hashtags

The healthcare industry has embraced social media in recent years—there’s a good chance you first encountered this very article on either Facebook or Twitter—but according to a recent article published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology, radiologists could be doing more to get the most out of this unprecedented resource.

C. Matthew Hawkins, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine's department of radiology and imaging sciences, wrote that the key to taking advantage of social media is proper organization.

“What will come from this flurry of activity?” Hawkins asked. “Are we learning from all of the online chatter? Is the information that is exchanged easily discoverable by people from all backgrounds? Without appropriately archiving our social media exchanges in an organized way from which to learn, a valid argument can be made that social media is a platform for ephemeral interactions that have minimal influence and little durable impact.”

This, Hawkins wrote, is where hashtags come in.

(For those not up to date with social media lingo, users can click a word or phrase preceded by a hashtag [#] to exclusively view content about that word or phrase. Users may monitor #Debate during a presidential debate, for example.)  

In January 2015, a “Radiology hashtag ontology” was created by a group of collaborators consisting of radiologists, patients, and others from within the radiology industry. The group agreed on specific hashtags for more than 30 key areas of study in radiology. #OncoRad represents oncologic radiology, for instance, while #MolRad represents molecular imaging.

These hashtags, part of Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag Project, helps radiologists track the healthcare news they want to read the most.

“If a radiologist in Australia is interested in pediatric radiology, he or she can join the conversation (or simply consume information) by searching for and/or using the #PedsRad hashtag on Twitter,” Hawkins wrote. “An interventional radiologist in Iowa can find good interventional radiology cases on Instagram by searching for the #IRad hashtag. Radiology residents have already popularized the #RadRes hashtag, which continues to be used to tag social media content that is pertinent to issues affecting radiology training. And if you are interested in health services research and/or economics affecting our profession, then #RadHSR and #RadEcon are the hashtags for you.”

Another benefit from using these specific hashtags is that they save information in a way that can be easily reviewed at a later date.

“Years from now, those in leadership positions can study what issues were on the minds of radiology leaders in 2015 by searching #RadLeaders,” Hawkins wrote. “Those studying early sentiments on bioconcentration of gadolinium can search #NeuroRad and discover a variety of opinions offered by scientists, patients, and physicians.”

From January 2015 to October 2015, more than 28,000 Twitter users created more than 123,000 tweets using these hashtags. Radiologists interested in participating in the conversation can learn more from Symplur’s website.