A recent e-mail exchange between myself (WGF) and fellow-physician bloggers John M. Mandrola MD (JMM), Edward J Schloss MD (EJS) and Ves Dimov MD (VDMD) resulted in some interesting insights about how physicians are using social media tools today. The following is a lightly edited version of the thread (used with permission). It began with an e-mail from Dr. Mandrola:
JMM: "In prep for our Social Media session at HRS2103. I was just wondering…
Do you guys keep a list of favorites on Twitter? I have lists–but they aren’t very effective logistically. I was wondering if I designed a list–say the Mandrola-twenty–of folks I did not want to miss, I might be able to use a column on TweetDeck. Right now, I follow 350 people–and it’s unwieldy. But yet I have trouble parsing because I’ll look at an acct and say to myself, "this one’s pretty good; I don’t want to unfollow." Also, I find TweetDeck sometimes intrusive. I use the reg Twitter app and often post with Hootsuite–because it allows me to link to 4 social networks at once–LinkedIn, FB, Twitter etc.
What Twitter app do you all use on Computer? On smartphone?
Do you have thoughts on Facebook (FB)? I see from the WSJ they are making a comeback so to speak. For a while there, I thought they might be dead.
Do you agree that Twitter seems more amendable to professional needs–the sort we all use it for: things like links, communication with colleagues, filtering of important medical news. I tend to use FB, the little that I do, for real life things like family, in-real-life friends and cycling stuff, for instance. I wonder whether this is a correct distinction, as most of the major journals and medical society have a FB presence. And likewise, Twitter has plenty of willy-nilly stuff like Hollywood, Athletes etc. The young people I know use Twitter more like I use FB."
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EJS: "I also use Twitter almost strictly for professional stuff, especially my posts. I follow a few non-professional accounts, but am really choosy in general about followers. For my own posts, I try to picture someone looking down my timeline and trying to decide whether I’m worth their time to follow. If I put a bunch of cr*p up, I figure they’d move on. Twitter is also the predominant source of my online persona, and I’m really careful about maintaining this.
Right now I follow 239 accounts and not all are terribly active. That keeps the stream manageable. I actually get a popup on the laptop for every thing that posts to my timeline. Because I use my laptop for all hospital charting, this means I see A LOT of tweets. That setup is clearly not for everyone, but I’ve gotten good at just glancing up to see who is posting before I commit to reading. The tweets fill the dead and mindless spaces we get during EHR data entry (which are a lot). At any given time I’ll also have 5 or 6 searches running that also generate popups. Right now these include meaningfuluse, St Jude Riata, Barry Meier, EHR, @burbdoc, #HRS2013 among others. All of these also generate popups.
If you want to filter down you list to highlight your most important accounts, you can set up a list in Tweetdeck (and I’m sure in the other clients, as well). That will become a column, and you could turn on alerts for just this stuff if you’re not at ADD as me. I have a friends/family list that shows up on my front page so I can quickly see if I missed anything good without having to obsessively scroll back through everything.
On the laptop, I use Tweetdeck. The old version before Twitter bought it is the best, but will stop working in a few days. I’ve put up the new version, but don’t like it as much. The biggest drawback is not having the profile photo on the popups. With the old Tweetdeck, it was easier to see who was posting with just peripheral vision.
On the iPhone and iPad I use Tweetbot. It’s really good and worth the few bucks it costs.
I’d tell any cardiologist starting on twitter to follow a bunch of health care journalists, along with you guys. The interactions you get with the journalists are really rewarding, and truly are a two way street.
I really don’t see much professional purpose for Facebook for an EP doc. If you were a plastic surgeon or ortho, maybe there would be a role. I’m actually trying not to market directly to patients, given the nature of my practice. Maybe you could pick up some AF that way, but I suspect a lot of nervous people with sinus tach or PACs would clog up your office if you did that.
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VDMD: Hi John and colleagues,
Here are my answers:
re: "Do you guys keep a list of favorites on Twitter?" — yes, I have 2 lists – 1. list of favorite tweets that I use as bookmark, 2. list of "allergists on Twitter".
re: "Mandrola-twenty–of folks I did not want to miss" – yes, KevinMD has that – top 20 Twitters he doesn’t want to miss. I follow few people – less than 100, I think, and only 50 of them tweet regularly.
re: "What Twitter app do you all use on Computer? On smartphone?" – I use TweetDeck on my home PC, HootSuite at work (TweetDeck is blocked), and mobile Twitter on my Android phone. I "favorite"/bookmark the links I want to check later.
re: "Do you have thoughts on Facebook?" – Facebook (FB) is here to stay – until a new network replaces it. You have to use it to stay relevant if you have a blog. In addition, people look at the number of your likes to see how large a following you have as a blogger. FB has limitations and can be annoying but Google Plus is not a replacement yet. FB will evolve for sure, they are a young, aggressive company, and will keep searching for ways to combat "user fatigue".
These are some quick thoughts. Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these.
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WGF: "Twitter is for the person with ADHD while blogs are for the obessive compulsive.
Twitter, by its very nature, has a low barrier for entry and can serve as an information "gatherer" initially. I’d encourage people to LURK first. It’s easy to use and feeds lots of information of interest quickly to docs. As a "MUST HAVE" for doctors, they should follow the journals they subscribe to: Heart Rhythm, NEJM, Circulation, JACC, etc, as well as major news orgs: WSJ, CNN breaking news, local newsorgs or radios, etc. I also follow Steve Colbert for a laugh once in a while.
Twitter is also VERY useful for collaboration (as we have seen) and for "hunters" of information by using your network. I especially encourage follows of docs of the same subspeciality.
Facebook is for family/personal friends for me. No patients there. I find it’s the best way to stay connected with my kids after they’re out of the house.
As far as lists are concerned: I think they’re a waste of time. I tried it, but since you cant send a targeted message or "tweet" to a list, it’s only a way to group accounts.
I use Echofon on my iPhone (like it better than Hootsuite) – easy user interface and free. I use Tweetdeck on my PC and MAC.
I follow 446 people – probably too many – but it’s a broad group that includes right and left-wing health care thinkers, IT nerds, politicians, bloggers, and you guys, and Steve Colbert. 🙂
Perhaps the most amazing use for Twitter (recently) was the immediacy of info provided there during the Boston bombings. It was unbelieveable how quickly updates happened and totally smoked the main news organizations. Imagine if doctors had a similar network at times of crisis! That’s why I think it would be VERY cool to push that concept with our audience. Consider, for example, the need to get an EKG interpretation immediately (check my recent Twitter stream to see an example of just that) – lots of folks weighed in with ideas – some good – some bad – but in the end it was vetted pretty well.
Looking forward to this…"
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VDMD: re: Journals on Twitter – I’m not a big fan of these. It’s mostly the administrative staff pushing some articles they have picked. RSS feeds for the journals are much better, in my opinion. They save time and include most (all) articles of each issue.
So there you have it. A sneek peak behiund the social media physician curtain on their take of current software, apps, and uses they find for social media in health care today.
For those attending the 2013 Heart Rhythm Society Scientific Sessions in Denver, CO next week, Drs. Schloss, Mandrola and myself (as well as Robert Coffield, Esq. of the Health Care Law Blog fame) will be speaking at the Rhythm Theatre at 3:15pm on 10 May 2013 on Physicians in Social Media.
Hope to see you there!
PS: For doctors considering the leap to social media, here’s a basic Twitter Primer.