Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

I first “discovered” Twitter about a year ago during my internship. I was looking at conventional and unconventional ways of how companies improve their customer service relationships when I stumbled upon this blog entry about how JetBlue was using Twitter. I thought it was pretty fascinating and not just because the article started with a William Shatner reference. I found it interesting because it begs the question, were companies like JetBlue and Comcast using Twitter to help improve customer service or were they using it more as a PR/marketing gimmick?

And most importantly, could Twitter even be used in health care?

At the time, I concluded no. To most people, when I said the word “Twitter” at the time, I was met with blank stares (until recently, I also got this while saying “Star Trek”). No one really used it or even heard about it. “What the hell are you talking about?” was the comment question. Yet, as I searched through “Tweets,” I couldn’t help but be impressed by the vast number of users out there and the significant number of entries about their health care experience. Yet, I wondered how health care organizations like hospitals could use Twitter? Could they even interact with patients this way? I’ve taken way too many HIPAA “training courses” to know this may be a bit dicey.

Of course, what a difference a year can make. I think Twitter has definitely made a foothold in popular culture, with celebrities, news reporters, and even law makers writing Tweets regularly. It’s even helped build community on the information superhighway.

In health care, Twitter has been used in some conventional and unconventional ways. At the health IT conference I attended, various attendees tweeted their experiences at the various panels. For a friend of mine in NYC, she was able to follow along the Tweets with the general highlights and news of the conference without actually attending and being there. Children’s Medical Center in Texas recently earned the distinction of tweeting a kidney transplant live in order to bring awareness to the condition among children. And even politicians are adding to the healthcare tweeting dialogue, especially in the smackdown arena.

But has it really been leveraged as best as it can be? Does Twitter have more potential in health care? Have we not used it to the best degree in our field of work? I don’t know. But there are a lot of possibilities.

As I walked by a Metro newspaper stand in NYC, I noticed the front page headline: “Study: Twitter’s Close to Completely Useless.” Do you agree? Do you Twitter? Feel free to discuss!

(And now hear what Conan thinks of Twitter at the 5:13 mark…)


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