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RESOURCE: Trends in Twitter Use by Physicians at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, 2010 and 2011


Purpose: Social media channels such as Twitter are gaining

increasing acceptance as mechanisms for instantaneous scien-
tific dialogue. Professional medical societies such as ASCO are
using social media to expand the reach of scientific communica-
tions at and around their scientific meetings. This article exam-
ines the how Twitter use by oncologists expanded at the ASCO
Annual Meetings from 2010 to 2011.

Methods: In both years, tweets that were specifically gener-
ated by physicians and that incorporated the official meeting
hashtag were harvested from the public domain, and a discourse
analysis was performed by three independent raters. Follow-up
surveys were conducted to assess physician attitudes toward
Twitter and its potential role in clinical practice.

Results: A combined total of 12,644 tweets were analyzed for
2010 and 2011. Although the number of physicians authoring
tweets was small (14 in 2010, 34 in 2011), this group generated
nearly 29% of the total meeting dialogue examined in this analysis in
2010 and 23% in 2011. Physicians used Twitter for reporting clinical
news from scientific sessions, for discussions of treatment issues,
for promotion, and to provide social commentary. The tangible im-
pact of Twitter discussions on clinical practice remains unclear.

Conclusion: Despite the 140-character limit, Twitter was suc-

cessfully used by physicians at the 2010 and 2011 ASCO Annual
Meetings to engage in clinical discussions, whether or not an author
was on site as a live attendee. Twitter usage grew significantly from
2010 to 2011. Professional societies should monitor these phe-
nomena to enhance annual meeting attendee user experience.

Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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