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Claudia Jackson

Health Care

Health Care Quality Professionals: Meet Twitter

Expnd yr ntwrk & mt ppl

Published: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 05:00

Twitter is not at all what I expected. After a few months, I now use Twitter to improve my knowledge in health care quality, expand my professional network, and save time. Through Twitter, I’ve connected with an amazing variety of people, including health care providers, marketing pros, e-patients, authors, and lean specialists. We share references and information on upcoming educational programs. We ask questions, problem solve together, laugh, and even provide a kind word when needed.

With Twitter, I learn about great webinars to attend and get information from conferences that I am unable to attend. Several people I’ve met through Twitter are going to write articles for the Florida Association for Healthcare Quality’s (FAHQ) Florida Quality News. An infection-control maven from Canada is helping me develop a special event for FAHQ’s annual conference. Four Twitter friends even offered to help review this article. I am amazed by the generosity of total strangers with whom I now share a community on Twitter. I learn something new with every visit.

Find people to follow. The best way to find people, short of knowing their name, is to use a hashtag search. A hashtag is a pound sign followed by a word. Put this in Twitter’s search box to find people who regularly talk about a topic of interest to you, such as #ptsafety. Or use the hashtag to engage in one of the health care Twitter chats. Visit the Health Care Hashtag Project web page to access a list of common hashtags in health care to either follow other tweets or have others find you.

Expand your network. Engage in TwitterChats, a one-hour, topic-driven discussion group. You can watch from the sidelines (known as “lurking”), answer questions, or respond to someone else’s comments. Three popular health care chats are #hcsm, #MDChat, and #RNChat, but you don’t need to be a doctor or nurse to engage in these chats.

Save time. Twitter lists are a wonderful way to save time. Create a list of Twitter users on a specific topic and then run your list to see only their tweets. My list includes health care publications, organizations, and people. I run this list twice a week, which saves me an enormous amount of time. I scan these tweets to find topics and articles of interest. Many physicians say that this is their primary source for professional reading.

Twitter facts

Here’s how to get started. First you need to sign up for an account on http://twitter.com/. There are three key decisions you will need to make during the sign-up process: Do you want a private or public account? Do you want to use the Twitter avatar or upload a picture of yourself? What do you want your handle to be?

Private or public. Public accounts can be seen by anyone; private accounts can be viewed only by the people you approve to follow you.

Avatar versus picture. Because this is a social medium, people on Twitter want to see the people with whom they are conversing. Many will not follow you back without a picture because they will assume you are a “sales bot” looking to sell your products. This is not always the case, but you will lose out if you don’t post a picture.

Your handle. Do you use your full name (as many do), or do you use a handle? My advice is to consider the length of your name, keeping in mind that Twitter allows only 140-character messages. For this reason, I chose a handle that reflects my interest in life: quality1.

Bio. You can put whatever you like here. If this is a personal account, talk about your interests or what you do. If you include your job title, be sure to indicate this is a personal account. Including your location is optional.

After your account is open, you can start tweeting, lurking, or watching the full Twitter stream or your personal stream (tweets of people you follow, plus your tweets). The 140-character limit might challenge you a bit, as will the new language and lack of vowels (i.e., “ppl” stands for people). But you’ll get used to it.

Twitter apps

There are many outside applications that can make your use of Twitter more organized and enjoyable. Two examples are Hoot Suite and Tweet Deck. I use Hoot Suite.

Just sign up for the free account—there are paid ones, too—and say “yes” when asked if this service is authorized to access your Twitter account.

Hoot Suite imports all the information from Twitter and puts it into columns, all on one page. You’ll see the Twitter stream (all the tweets from people you follow), any tweets in which you are mentioned, tweets you’ve recently sent, and your DMs, which are private messages only allowed between two people who follow one another. Eventually, you’ll want to add more columns.

I like it that I didn’t need to download Hoot Suite onto my computer, but I can use it as a web-based application. I also like the feature that allows me to schedule tweets. I can spread out my tweets over time, which helps me to maintain a presence on Twitter at times when I know I won’t be able to sign in.

TweetChat allows you to follow along on TwitterChat. Once you enter the hash tag of the chat, you will see a stream of tweets only from that chat. You can RT (re-tweet), post a new message, or send a response or question to someone else on the chat. The TweetChat system automatically adds the hash tag for a chat, which is a real time saver.

Delicious is a social bookmarking application that lets you save all of your favorite sites or bookmarks online, share them with other people, see what other people are bookmarking, and access your bookmarks from any computer. Delicious allows you to tag your bookmarks by topic and provides a link for each topic so you can share your finds with others. It’s a great way to organize and share your online research.

Tweetake allows you to create a record of your Twitter account, including who is following you, who you follow, or your recent tweets. I love this because it helps me keep links of good references in recent tweets.

You are now ready to become a world-class Tweet. Welcome to the Twitterverse—a sharing community of great tweeps. And don’t worry; you’ll get used to the silly words and missing vowels. It’s worth it.


About The Author

Claudia Jackson’s picture

Claudia Jackson

Claudia Jackson, a certified professional in health care quality (CPHQ) is the editor in chief of Florida Quality News at the Florida Association for Healthcare Quality.



Thank you Claudia for the info; it was very useful although, I have to say that I am rather a conservative when it comes to embracing new technology... I do have an account in Twitter - I signed up a month ago... - but I haven't really used it. I will start learning more and follow your suggestions.

Thanks again,

George Bacioiu - gbacioiu@ELSEinc.com

LSS Consultant ELSE Inc., Windsor, ON

- www.elseinc.com -