Monday, April 18, 2011

Why aren't more docs on Twitter?

I was precepting last week at our busiest outpatient site.  One of the residents there is very interested in all things technology and we got to talking about the iPad.  Knowing that he uses Twitter, I told him about some of the neat ideas I had recently seen there about the use of tablets in patient care. 

The preceptor room is a public place, and it's pretty easy to be overheard.  This resident and I were only about two minutes into this conversation when the comments began to fly from the other residents - and the other preceptor - in the room.

"Twitter?  That's just for celebrities."
"Twitter's a waste of time."
"Twitter's just to make yourself feel important."

Even more discouraging was that my attempts to explain the positives of Twitter - networking, idea sharing, collegial support - were brushed away.

"I have enough things to check every day already with e-mail, Facebook, and texts."
"Twitter is all self-serving.  Does anybody really care what you have to say?"

I have heard these types of comments across all ages and generations.  I have heard them at conferences, among the faculty I work with, in the monthly book group I attend.  Twitter is decidedly not mainstream in medicine, at least not in the circles I travel in.

I have seen and read countless articles, ideas, and opinions that I wouldn't have found without Twitter.  Yes, it takes a little time to find good people to follow, and it then takes a little time to actually follow them.  But the pay-off in new ideas and inspired thinking is marvelous - far better than the same amount of time on Facebook or an RSS reader.

For the most part, physicians are notoriously late adopters of new ideas.  Health systems had to mandate EHRs to get most physicians to use them.  In an age of e-mail and text messages, most of our offices remind people of appointments with a phone call.   Heck, I was a Twitter skeptic a year ago.

Interestingly, though, once docs have these new technologies, they're equally reluctant to change back.  (You should have heard the uproar here the last time the computers went down.  "Write my notes...on paper?!?")  Which leads me to wonder if some of these Twitter bashers would be still so negative if they were actually Twitter users.  So, how about it, Twitter detractors - why not give it a try?

I dare you.


  1. Good post. Fanatics are the easiest converts! They'll tweet when they're ready. Blog and Tweet on. Especially on #FamMedChat Thurs 9 PM on (but withhold the information from the twitterphobes until they're twitterphilic).

  2. Thanks, very nice post.

    I have similar sentiments as a fellow academic physician. Twitter following and blogging will never garner the same "currency" as grants and papers, but neither does doing a great lecture! Medical educators especially should begin to embrace new ways to educate not just our own students and trainees, but the public. (I just happened to write about a similar topic this weekend)

    I look forward to reading more.

  3. Thanks for the post!

    It's funny how hard it is to compel "the modern med student" to give it a try. I think it's as you say- you have to try it to learn about it, and med folks don't have the curiosity or the time to give it a try.


  4. I love "meeting" so many other docs through my blog and twitter. But when I did a talk on social media my partners warned me to "be careful, because there are weirdos out there on the internet." I don't think the internet has a lock on weirdos! :)

  5. Like you said: people have to just use Twitter to "get it" - it's not something that appeals to the intellect at first.

    There's also #MDchat on Twitter - that was the first Twitter chat for physicians.

    It's a great lead-in for physicians.