Should hospitals use Twitter to follow patients?

Would it be creepy if a hospital followed a patient on Twitter?

That’s just one issue to consider as hospitals are joining the popular microblog service. Ves Dimov points out that top institutions like the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic are Web 2.0 pioneers and among the early Twitter adopters.

Should doctors follow their patients on Twitter or Facebook? What’s the best way for the medical community to leverage social media?

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  • A.G.V.


    I’m a Medicine student from Spain.
    I think that We (MD and future MD) are living a new social and media revolution similar to the one of the printing press.

    Nowadays students and MD are creating medicine 2.0 while hospitals and in our (Spanish) case, administration are not taking care about this new opportunity.

    We should not use Twitter or Facebook, hospitals and governments should supply new ways for direct doctor-patient relationship through the Intenet. It’s also important to open new virtual spaces to support interprofessional comunication as medting.

    Sorry about my English.

  • Lee

    I think that these technologies should be leveraged, but I can’t think of a good way to work with what exists now without it also being creepy.

    Thinking out loud, I’d want to be able to manage my overall “profile” as I see fit, but allow portions to be viewed by specific people. A “health” portion being available only to my doctor/etc, while my public profile is just that, and my private portion available to whom I choose. Maybe a full parallel system? That’s a lot of duplication, but at the same time I don’t really want my health concerns and patient care to cross over with my social life except when I choose.

    Definitely something we should all think about. The day is coming, and it will be interesting when it does.

  • Van

    Are the hospitals/medical professionals forcing the patients to update Twitter or is this simply the Doctor following a persons already established Twitter feed?

    If the doctors are simply following an already established feed, it’s not creepy at all. People are already putting the information out there to be followed by the world, what is so different about a Doctor following a feed as opposed to some person you may have never met before?


  • Allyson

    My blog, Facebook and Twitter are all open to the public.

    If my doc wants to read what I say, more power to him. I know that it’s public, so I’m careful what I say in my public posts.

    There are posts on Live Journal that are locked to friends and obviously, if my doc isn’t a “friend,” he doesn’t get to read it.

  • Nick Dawson

    Great question and thoughtful post!
    Its a topic that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit as well.

    To me the value in social networks is creating a two-way relationship with your ‘constituents’.

    In the case of a physician/patient relationship, I can see tremendous value in the care giver posting health tips, info on screening events, etc. I think privacy issues might be a problem with them directly addressing health concerns of patients via something like twitter; but the biggest hurdle to a physician following a patient is their time.

    In a similar light, Hospitals could get a lot of benefit out of cultivating that relationship with patients, employees and physicians but it would have to be on a very general level … If a patient comments on their care its one thing, but it would be very challenging for a hospital to reply in a public forum.

  • Kelly

    Depending on the situation, many things can make it a good thing for a patient to be in contact with their doctor. If the information is not going to become a statistic and it will be profitable for care and well being then why not? My first choice would be to keep in contact via email due to the privacy concern, however if it was the only means then I would twitter.

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