“Every member of Congress, as well as federal agencies, such as the Food & Drug Administration and Medicare, is on Twitter,” Dr. Worthing says.
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Although he admits there’s a bit of a learning curve with Twitter, he offers the following tips for rheumatologists who want to make their tweets stand out:
- Make your tweet short and sweet. Although Twitter began allowing users to utilize 280 characters this past November, instead of the previous 140, the goal remains the same: Concentrate on sharing your message succinctly.
- Use videos and photos. Use visual or relevant articles in your tweets to increase their leverage.
- Embrace hashtags. When properly utilized, hashtags make it easy for Twitter users to find relevant content. Dr. Worthing says some hashtags, such as #Act4Arthritis, have received over 1 million views. Hashtags can help categorize your content and connect you with others who are searching for information on specific such topics as #Arthritis, #Lupus, etc. Don’t use more than three hashtags per tweet.
- Practice discretion. Although several cases of physicians who have divulged patient information in social media have been widely publicized, Dr. Worthing says most physicians know that talking about patients can violate Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. Rather than mentioning specifics, you should discuss medical conditions and treatments on social media in general terms. Because Twitter posts are stamped with a date and time, mentioning a patient’s condition in a tweet at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday, could potentially be linked to an appointment. Because tweets are public, it’s best to avoid communicating with patients on Twitter or posting patient information.
- Grow your network. Having a group of colleagues that you tweet with on a regular basis allows you to share relevant information and to retweet each other to increase the visibility of your tweets.
“Twitter also provides a means for physicians and researchers to publicly announce important new treatments and specific screening tests,” Dr. Worthing says. “There are approximately 5,000 rheumatologists in the U.S., and Twitter provides a way for us to connect and leverage our voices.”
To meet colleagues from around the globe, Dr. Worthing notes that Tweet-Ups, also known as virtual Twitter gatherings, are held as part of the ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting.
Some rheumatologists maintain a presence on Facebook, and Dr. Worthing has found that social network useful for physicians who want to market their business and establish a presence in their community.