Can 140 characters help your healthcare practice?

The short answer, yes.

Twitter has grown from a teenage-centric chatroom to an information powerhouse. Originally developed as a way to keep in contact with a network of friends and family, this social media platform has quickly become a major resource for professional organizations.

Twitter has provided the healthcare industry with a platform to express relevant news and advancements within medicine via short, informative “tweets.” In essence, it created an open forum, which now represents one of the largest resources for healthcare professionals and patients/consumers alike.

Knowledge Transfer

As previously mentioned, Twitter created an open forum. This is important because it allows healthcare professionals to share new intelligence/discoveries from their research with the world. Instead of paying to subscribe to medical journals and magazines, Twitter offers a free, essential resource for healthcare professionals to have access to the varied research from their peers.

Twitter allows you to “follow” any account from its database of over 500 million active users. From reputable sources such as the American Medical Association to prestigious medical centers like the Mayo Clinic, Twitter offers healthcare professionals a collaborative platform and free access to a wealth of information.

The Hashtag Never Looked So Good

Quite possibly the trait that differentiated Twitter the most from other social media sites, such as Facebook, was the hashtag. Facebook quickly followed suit once the # symbol took the Twitter world by storm and started including the symbol on its social media platform, as well. Also known as the pound symbol on the telephone, the hashtag is used to classify a series of tweets and collect information about that particular topic. Healthcare professionals and patients/consumers can search for this information and find every tweet that mentions a hashtag.

For example, #meded is a very popular hashtag that trends within the medical community on Twitter. #meded stands for medical education, and tweets using this hashtag feature educational information for the general public and healthcare professionals alike. Simply type “#meded” into the Twitter searchbar and now you have gained access to every tweet that has ever featured that hashtag. Hashtags for healthcare can be used to categorize your content. It can also expand the audience of your tweet as others find the type of content you are tweeting.

Direct Access to Your Followers

As a healthcare practice, you should pride yourself on the quality of care you provide to your patients, and your social media game should garner the same respect. Social media and the Internet as a whole has changed the way we communicate by removing limitations on whom we communicate with. Twitter offers the direct communication between you and all of your followers, who may be comprised of former or current patients, education seekers or other healthcare professionals interested in a collaborative approach to medicine.

By engaging in Twitter, your healthcare practice opens the lines of communication for people to express their comments, concerns and suggestions in the way you run your practice, how the doctors interact with patients and your overall quality of care. Think of Twitter as your “How Are We Doing?” questionnaire – you know, the ones no one fills out anymore. It is a free resource to connect with your clientele in order to find out what they think about you and how you do business.

Not only can you learn from your patients’ feedback, but your practice can also share information and news with your followers in a swift and concise manner. Have an event coming up? Share it with your followers. Want to share your opinion on a new medical technology? Share away. The Twitter world is your oyster; your followers, the pearl.

Far from the teenage chatroom, it used to be. Twitter now represents one of the largest sources of information and discussion in the healthcare world. If Facebook is a phone call, think of Twitter as a text message. A quick text is preferred to that long, drawn out phone call from your aunt on your birthday. With the communication standards of today, shorter is better (as long as the content is informative). The power of 140 characters or less can take your healthcare practice from the annoying aunt to the cool uncle with a Harley.

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