Apr 21, 2014
The reasons why healthcare professionals should use Twitter for career purposes has been a highly debated topic for a few years now. The well-documented precautionary tales still cause many to shy away from the thought. While these risks are certainly justifiable, the power of social media platforms – specifically Twitter – are simply too great to disregard. Fortunately, more hospitals, medical practices, and healthcare professionals are beginning to exploit Twitter’s capabilities as a catalyst for success.
Twitter’s functions are versatile enough for it to be utilized however you choose. Some healthcare-related Twitter accounts are strictly informative; some are interactive; some are used only as a means of acquiring information; and some for all three. How you decide to use Twitter is entirely up to you. One thing is clear though – Twitter is NOT limited purely as a tool for your social life. There are dozens of reasons why healthcare professionals should use Twitter for career purposes, but here are the only three you need to know:
1.) To Connect
Perhaps the most common reason healthcare professionals are migrating towards Twitter is because of its global networking ability. Through Twitter, you can connect seamlessly with colleagues, patients and other medical professionals. People who you otherwise wouldn’t likely have the opportunity to connect with are suddenly accessible through Twitter. Its flexibility allows you to choose whom you follow and whom you connect with, giving you the power to create a personalized digital community of like-minded people. Twitter’s simplicity allows you to connect with these people with the click of a button. It’s a remarkably powerful service that can expand your communication possibilities far beyond traditional methods.
More people are turning to the Internet for health-related information, often posting their questions on Twitter. You now have the ability to directly answer their questions, which helps build both your online community and your personal online reputation. Commenting on tweets sent by colleagues can also be a great way to collaborate and share ideas. Many medical practices and recruiters are turning to Twitter to aid their searches for possible candidates. It can also be used to respond to patients who had a bad experience with you that they felt the need to share online.
It should be noted to always be cautious when interacting with patients on Twitter. A majority of the risks healthcare professionals mention as their reasoning for not using social media revolve around the negative fallout of breaking patient confidentiality rules. Fortunately, avoiding such is easily obtainable with some common sense.
2.) To Educate
Twitter has become the go-to outlet for many doctors to share their information with the public. Many people like to refer to Twitter as a “mini-blog” platform due to its 140-character restriction per tweet. While this does create certain limitations, considering it a “mini-blog” does not do justice to Twitter as a whole. Yes, it is more difficult to post highly valuable information while staying under the character restrictions, but it is far from impossible. There are also many other ways to pass along useful knowledge to your followers by sharing and linking to other content not located directly on Twitter. I would suggest creating a separate blog that you can use in collaboration with your Twitter account.
Twitter makes sharing material with others easier than ever before. This includes content created by you and content created by others. Many people use Twitter solely to pass along information they find to be helpful to their followers. Read a particular article that you found helpful? Send a quick tweet about it, include the link, and share it with your followers! Know of a worthwhile healthcare event about to take place? Let your followers know about it! If you do have a blog (which I suggest you do), use it in collaboration with your Twitter account by tweeting the link to your recent blog post to increase your audience! As Anne Marie Cunningham, a highly respected GP and Clinical Lecturer, says, “If your mission is to spread the word, then you should be using Twitter.”
As a healthcare professional, you have willingly accepted the extraordinary responsibilities that come with the job description. Whatever your specific title may be, you are in the business of making the world a better place by ensuring the health and safety of its people. This is typically done in a reactive manner by fixing a problem that has already occurred. With that being said, it’s also essential to take a proactive approach by consistently educating the public in hopes of preventing these problems from occurring in the first place. Twitter’s extensive network and intuitive features make this easier than ever.
3.) To Learn
I’ve said before that healthcare professionals must be perennial learners by default in order to keep up with constant advances in the industry. In retrospect, the same reasons that Twitter is a great resource for you to educate others also makes it a great resource for you to educate yourself.
There are thousands of healthcare-related individuals and organizations that are steadily pushing out valuable knowledge through their Twitter account. The first step to obtaining this knowledge is following the right people. Luckily, Twitter makes this rather simple trough its suggestion and searching components. After that, you merely need to check your Twitter feed on a regular basis and see what is has to offer.
As usual, always be certain that what you are reading on the Internet comes from a credible source. One of Twitter’s key features is the ability for users to type and post a tweet for the world to see in a matter of seconds. The downside is that this makes it virtually impossible for Twitter to check the validity of what is being posted. This, along with the general nature of social media’s “post whatever you want, whenever you want” demeanor only amplifies the need for you to check the validity of what you are reading. This issue can also be greatly reduced by following the right people, but not entirely diminished. There will be a fair share of futile tweets that won’t offer you much – nothing you can do about that. Regardless, the constructive information you can gain from valuable tweets substantially outweighs the inevitability of futile tweets.
It’s no fluke that Twitter is quickly becoming the place healthcare professionals go for networking, breaking news and medical advice. There are plenty of specific reasons you should be using Twitter, as Phil Baumann notes in this fantastic piece. Still, most funnel into one of the simplified categories listed above. And it’s those three reasons – to connect, to educate, and to learn – why healthcare professionals should use Twitter.