Posted in #HCSM, Twitter

Can we measure tweets for academic research?

I find it both exciting and encouraging to see the growth in this research. I love the comment by Edward Bender MD: ” It is my contention that “case based” learning is underutilized and under published in current standard medical journals.  The non-academic practitioner has a wealth of knowledge based on experience on a case by case basis, but has neither the motivation nor the infrastructure available to construct formal trials. Therefore, I believe the time is ripe for a series of specialty specific case report journals encouraging participation from both the academic world and the non-university practitioners.”

See on

Posted in #HCSM, Health Promotion

Can Twitter’s online tribes influence healthcare marketing?

Diagram shows the partition of Twitter users into communities, annotated with words selected to be typical of those often used by members of each community

Twitter users are spontaneously forming tribe-like communities of like-minded people who even share their own distinct languages, new research has found.

Scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London, and Princeton University in New Jersey found they could use the language in Tweets to group users into communities with a common character, occupation or interest.

They suggest that the use of a common language could allow members of such ‘Twitter tribes’ to quickly identify like-minded users, and that further investigation could yield insights into how sub-cultures evolve online.

The team produced a map of the communities showing how they have vocations, politics, ethnicities and hobbies in common.

In order to do this, they focused on publicly available messages sent via Twitter, which meant that they could record conversations between two or many participants.

The study, recently published in the open-acess journal EPJ Data Science, describes how the researchers analysed 75 million tweets sent by 189,000 users. To group these users into communities, they turned to cutting-edge algorithms from physics and network science. The algorithms worked by looking for individuals that tend to send messages to other members of the same community.

‘One ‘anipals’ group was interested in hosting parties to raise funds for animal welfare, while another was a fascinating growing community interested in the concept of gratitude.’

In the paper, the researchers write:

Online social networks offer us an unprecedented opportunity to systematically study the large-scale structure of human interactions. Our approach suggests that groups with distinctive cultural characteristics or common interests can be discovered by identifying communities in interaction networks purely on the basis of topological structure.

This approach has several benefits when compared to surveying groups identified on a smaller scale: it is systematic, and groups are identified and classified in an unbiased way; when applied to online social networks it is non-intrusive; and it easily makes use a large volume of rich data.

The potential to include social group identification, customise online experience, and crowd-source characterisation could certainly be applied to healthcare marketing, public health campaigns, etc.  As the report points out, having people with a negative attitude towards vaccination preferentially in contact with those of the same opinion could lead to clusters of susceptibles and increased risk of outbreaks. So any process that structures people into groups could potentially play a strong role in cultural evolution, as well as in the spread of information or pathogens.





Posted in #HCSM, Doctor, Twitter

Take The Healthcare Social Media Identity Survey

surveyIn my latest blog post on using Twitter as a healthcare tool,  two of the findings which emerged in determining the credibility of tweets were that:

  • users are poor judges of truthfulness based on content alone, and instead are influenced by heuristics such as user name when making credibility assessments.
  • users represented by the default Twitter icon are perceived as significantly less credible than users with any other type of icon image.

Clearly, establishing your online identity is a key factor in establishing your credibility.  So, I will be very interested to see the results of an online survey on healthcare social media identity which will be presented in Paris in June at Doctors 2.0 & You.

If you would like to take part in this survey please click here to participate.

Posted in #HCSM, Health Promotion, Public Health, Twitter

How social media puts the public in ‘public health information’

According to new research from the University of Sydney, micro-blog-based services such as Twitter could be a promising medium to spread important information about public health.

The research, by Professor Robert Steeleand PhD candidate Dan Dumbrell, indicates social media networks such as Twitter have distinct and potentially powerful characteristics that distinguish them from traditional online methods of public health information dissemination, such as search engines. This research is part of Professor Steele’s broader investigations on the impacts of emerging technologies on health and health care.

Using new communications technologies to allow people to directly receive relevant and up-to-the-minute public health information could benefit the health of millions and change the paradigm of public health information dissemination ~ Professor Steele, Head of Discipline and Chair of Health Informatics at the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Twitter has a powerful characteristic in that it is members of the public who distribute public health information by forwarding messages from public health organisations to their followers.

According to Professor Steele, this provides a new way for public health organisations to both engage more directly with the public and leverage individuals’ networks of followers, which have ‘self-organised’ by topic of interest. Major social networks currently have hundreds of millions of users and continue to grow rapidly.

While most public health information is sought through online search engines, it has previously been found that relevant public health documents are not always successfully located and disseminated due to the user’s search methods.

Important public health information that may benefit from micro-blogs could include communicable disease outbreaks, information about natural disasters, promotion of new treatments and clinical trials, and dietary and nutrition advice.

When you look for information on a search engine, algorithms and computers determine the most important results. With social media networks, you have a ‘push’ mechanism, where interested individuals are directly alerted to public health information. You also have a prodigious network of users whose time and effort to find and follow relevant accounts, and to filter which information is forwarded or retweeted represents a powerful aggregate human work effort.

The researchers examined a sample of more than 4,700 tweets from 114 Australian government, non-profit and for-profit health-related organisations. Each of the tweets was categorised according to the health condition mentioned, the type of information provided, whether a hyperlink was included, and whether there were any replies or retweets.

Non-profit organisations made up almost two-thirds of the group, and had a much higher average following than their for-profit counterparts. The majority of tweets in the sample, 59 percent, were non condition-specific, followed by tweets about mental health, cancer and lifestyle (fitness and nutrition).

“Most major health conditions were present in the twittersphere, but we were somewhat surprised by the proportions,” says Professor Steele.

“Four of the government’s National Health Priority Areas were underrepresented in our sample, including asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, injury prevention and control, and obesity. These conditions only made up 1.7 percent of health-related tweets.”

For-profit organisation tweets were dominant in the maternity, pharmaceutical and dental areas, most likely because of their potential as a source of commercialisation or potential profit.

However, despite having the largest average number of tweets, for-profit organisations also had the lowest number of average followers, indicating consumers were more likely to reject sites they considered promotional or sales-based.

Non-profit Twitter accounts provided the majority of tweets in the sample, with a large number of fundraising and awareness-raising tweets.

However, despite having a far lower average number of tweets, government accounts were found to be the most successful at disseminating public health information, with the greatest number of average followers and re-tweets.

There were also a number of common characteristics to highly re-tweeted public health advice tweets.

Actionable tweets, which provided readers with information to act upon in relation to their health, were highly successful, along with time relevance and relation to particular events, a personally directed style of language and rhetorical questions.

Interestingly, perceived acuteness of health risk and need for others to be informed also drove information dissemination.

“The real-time insight Twitter gives us into exactly how consumers react to and spread public health information is unprecedented,” says Professor Steele.

“With further research, it’s likely Twitter will change how we disseminate public health information online. In addition, our ability to analyse pathways, reach, and the identity of information recipients could provide new possibilities for analytical techniques and software tools to further improve public health information dissemination.

See on

Posted in #HCSM

Ideagoras 2012: Healthcare Social Media

Thomas Lee will be speaking about healthcare social media at Ideagoras 2012

During the summer, I was invited to attend Ideagoras 2012, taking place in Madrid next week. Unfortunately it clashed with some other commitments this month. However, the good news is that for those of us who can’t attend in person, we can follow online via the live stream which will be embedded at

So what is Ideagoras? When I first read the term I was intrigued. Here’s how Symplur’s Thomas Lee, one of the invited speakers, explains it:

“Ideagoras” is one of those words that will make people stop and think.  It sounds so intriguing, but what exactly does it mean?  Well, according to Wikipedia, the term refers to, “places on the Internet where large numbers of people or businesses gather to exchange ideas and solutions”.  And that’s exactly what both (the company) and Ideagoras 2012 (the conference) are all about.

Thomas  explains how the conference came about through joining forces online with Angel Gonzalez, the founder and CEO of  Ideagoras, “a company that creates truly engaging relationships through free, honest and relevant conversations between healthcare brands and consumers”.

Thomas will be speaking about healthcare social media, specifically Twitter, it’s evolution in the healthcare industry, its use among healthcare professionals and patients, Symplur’s  healthcare hashtag project, and the importance of social media analytics for business.   Other keynote speakers at Ideagoras 2012

  • Marc Vidal (@marcvidal):  Entrepreneurship in the new Collaborative Economy
  • Antonio Ibarra (@Contraejemplo):  Fostering Social Media in Big Pharmas
  • Francisco Lupiañez (@flupianez):  Evidence Based Social Media
  • Michaela Endemann (@wissit):  Some bits about Healthcare Social Media in German Speaking Countries: Austria, Germany, Switzerland
  • Anabel Salazar (@salazaranabel):  Dr2.0 Like Me
  • Christina Anthogalidis (@binaryhealth):  Physician & Consumer Insights in Social Media
  • Elena Sáinz (@educadies):  Empowering patients through the Social Web
  • Verónica Botet(@veronicabotet):  Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
  • Paul Connolly (@PGConnolly):  From Inspiration to Reality: the Power of Light

It sure sounds like it will be an interesting meeting. I am sorry to be missing it next week, but will be following along online.

Posted in #HCSM

Photo- and Video-Sharing Trends on Twitter

See on Scoop.itHealth Care Social Media Monitor

Twitter users turn to Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter itself to post pictures. 36% of links are images, followed by 16% articles ad 9% video. Social photo sharing has seen major growth over the past year, due particularly to Instagram. 15% of images shared on Twitter are from Instagram, second only to direct image sharing to Twitter.

See on