4 Reasons Twitter Is a Great Health Resource

Health Is Social logo

Health is Social logo courtesy of Health Is Social

If you’re like many of us, the minute you or someone you care about is diagnosed with something, you go online to do research. You may even reach out to your Facebook friends. You’re far less likely to think, “Hey! Now that I have cancer/diabetes/MS, I better get a Twitter account!” If you can’t understand what people get out of Twitter, this post is for you.

Reason No. 1. Real-time conversations with people who’ve been there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with cancer, diabetes or lupus; you’ll find others who have been through it. Don’t be surprised if they happen to be in Canada, Dubai, Ireland or Yangon. (These are all examples from my experience, by the way.) It’s so comforting to know you’re not alone, and so awe-inspiring to realize that experience connects us no matter where we are on this blue marble.

Reason No 2. There are some incredible doctors and nurses sharing their time and talents on Twitter. They’re answering questions and sharing insights, including links to their own blog posts and interesting healthcare articles from other sources.

Patients or civilians or whatever you call the rest of us do that too, but I want you to know the pros are out there and they want to help. I will never forget how nervous I was when I first got on Twitter. The first person who started following me aside from people I knew offline, and who made me feel welcome in this electronic cocktail party, was a doctor. I will always be grateful to him. 

While no one will (or should) give you specific medical advice, any question you have about what something means or how it works is likely to find an answer. I blundered into a colon cancer discussion yesterday over my lunch hour and decided to jump in, since colon cancer took my mom out. I had a question about something I’d heard about certain people needing more colonoscopy prep (lucky them!), and a doctor answered it within seconds.

Reason No. 3. Tweetchats, which bring all these peers and pros together in one place. If you aren’t familiar with them, tweetchats are scheduled discussions on a variety of topics, such as the colon cancer one I found. People use hashtags(#) to identify the topic or group. I often take part in the #bcsm (breast cancer social media) tweetchat held on Mondays at 9 p.m. Eastern time, moderated by Jody Schoger (@jodyms) and Alicia Stales (@stales) with support from Deanna Attai (@DrAttai), a breast surgeon. The group has tackled parenting while under treatment, how to tell people at work, and how to cope with the fear of recurrence.

Three other excellent tweetchats are #hcsm (healthcare communications in social media), moderated by Dana Lewis (@danamlewis), and #MDchat and #RNchat, both moderated by Phil Baumann (@PhilBaumann). Phil is a registered nurse and business consultant. He also blogs at Health Is Social (@HealthisSocial) and was kind enough to let me use its logo for this post. There are too many other health-related tweetchats to mention here. Symplur.com has a comprehensive healthcare tweetchat calendar.

Reason 4. Breaking health news. My husband has commented on how often we see something in the Wall Street Journal before we see it on broadcast news or our local paper. Now I often see things on Twitter before I see them in the WSJ or any news outlet. I can’t tell you how many healthcare items I’ve seen on Twitter first in the past year or so.

Those reasons are immediately top of mind for me. If you have more reasons Twitter can be a good health resource, please share them. And if you’ve been thinking of getting on Twitter, just do it. Don’t let it intimidate you. It’s not just for celebrities and you can make some real connections.  Happy tweeting! @jackiefox12


26 thoughts on “4 Reasons Twitter Is a Great Health Resource

  1. Hi Jackie,
    You’ve written a great post filled with solid information. I consult for a national hospital chain that’s building a new breast cancer center. When I explained Twitter and Social Media, they were amazed and eager to join the Twitter discussions in the future. Thanks for explaining the many walks of life that can be found on Twitter and in Twitterchats.


  2. You are writing about my favorite topic Jackie 🙂 I am just so passionate about the potential I see with Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms to play a significant role in medicine and patient empowerment. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us all.

  3. Great post, Jackie. As one fairly new to Twitter, I whole-heartedly agree with your points as to why it is of value. It is really an amazing place to come for breaking health news, well, actually for all breaking news, though of course you still must be mindful of the source. Thanks for the post and thanks for being one of my followers! Hopefully I can keep learning from you!

    • Thank you, Nancy. Great point that we must be mindful of the sources online. I read something once that said being on the internet is like being at a bar with a drunk on one side and a Ph.D. on the other 🙂

  4. I just joined Twitter a couple of weeks ago and already I’m a big fan. But what I really loved about this post is that I now know what some of those hashtags I keep seeing mean! I saw on Monday that so many were excited about #bcsm but I had no idea what it meant. and now, I do. Thanks! And perhaps I’ll “see” you on Monday!

  5. I still have a hard time getting many to understand what draws me to twitter, but it’s simple – there is an amazing sense of community, support and caring that is extended to everyone. Thanks for the post and the #BCSM shoutout!

    • Deanna, I know exactly what you mean. People are often mystified when I tell them if I had to choose only one social media outlet, I’d choose Twitter–and that sense of community is why.

  6. Oh so true, Jackie – I am not sure I could function any more without Twitter and the other forms of social media. It is such “live” community.

    And what a treat (tweet treat 😉 ) to see Yangon mentioned 🙂 I feel so much closer geographically thanks to our connectivity.

  7. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  8. Jackie, I LOVE this posting, and what you are saying is true. I find Twitter a comforting place of community and information sharing. I am a regular with the #BCSM chat and have just started participating in the #HCSM chat. One of the most amazing things is the support I feel from a variety of people — from doctors and nurses to patients. It is wonderful.

    • Hi Beth,
      Yes, the sense of community never ceases to amaze me either. I’ve only participated in #hcsm once, have lurked a couple of times but want to check it out more often.

  9. Hi Jackie, thanks for this overview, I’m just new to Twitter (a late-comer, I know!) trying to learn its potential. I love the global village, the sharing of knowledge and support. Having finally attacked Facebook, Twitter and blogs, now I see there is Pinterest, and wonder if I should get to that before it is old-school too!

    • Thank you, Maura! I hear you on Pinterest–I just got on it and so far have only pinned two pictures about women wine pioneers 🙂 I want to do more but need to get a lot better about time management. Marie @JBBC can tell you all about Pinterest! Check out her tweets and her Pinterest links!

  10. This is a truly useful piece with excellent points–and I wish I would have thought of them myself! Several weeks ago I did a post, “Don’t Go It Alone: Illness and Connectedness” at http://wp.me/p22afJ-Ep, addressing how various connections–to animals, plants, friends–are critical in improving from major illnesses, but I left off the idea of the social media. So now I’ve updated the piece with this post linked to it. You have educated me, and enriched my own post. Thank you, and I hope Twitter does, indeed, serve you well in all those ways. Best in health, Candida

  11. I am way behind on my reading but I positively LOVE this post. Twitter for the Dim Twit (that would be me although I’m far more comfy and lovin that entire community). I think you need to put up a page of your “educational posts” for quick reference. This is right up there with your Ten Commandments!

    Love to you, Jackster….

  12. As insurance cost continue to rise, medication shortages are becoming more common and many employees are caught between the responsibilities of taking care of both their children and their parents employers are looking for ways they can assist their employees. I have shared with a number of human resource professionals in my community how they can use twitter as a valuable resource for their employees.

    This blog post is spot on!
    Thank you Jackie!

  13. GREAT Post!!! Your information is totally accurate! Twitter does offer so many outlet and information for the health field. I have joined in a few myself

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