In a Research Letter in JAMA, Dr. Chretien et al describe the profile of physicians in the Twitter universe, specifically focusing on professionalism.

Inclusion criteria:

  • Self identified physician
  • At least 500 followers during May 1-31, 2010 (Whew, I only have 309 followers.)
  • English tweets
  • Posted a tweet within last 6 months
A total of 260 physicians were studied.
  • 6.2% were from Emergency Medicine.
  • 15% (most) were from Surgery and its subspecialties.
  • 76% were from the United States.

Three physicians independently coded the 20 most recent tweets from each account (total n= 5,156) for unprofessional content. There were 144 (3%) unprofessional tweets from 27 users:

  • 55 (1%) – possible conflict of interest, advocating for non-standard therapies
  • 38 (0.7%) – potentially violation of patient privacy
  • 33 (0.6%) – profanity
  • 14 (0.3%) – sexually explicit material
  • 4 (0.1%) – discriminatory statement
  • 25 of 27 (92%) of users were identifiable 

The authors conclude that, although rare, there should be more physician accountability and guidelines in the age of social media. This is even more true, since I just discovered that all tweets are archived by the Library of Congress!

Take a look at your most recent tweets. How would they have performed if you were included in this study?

Reference
Chretien KC, Azar J, Kind T. Physicians on Twitter. JAMA: The journal of the American Medical Association. 2011. 305(6), 566-8. PMID: 21304081.

 

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD

@M_Lin

Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg San Francisco General. Founder of ALiEM @aliemteam #PostitPearls https://t.co/7v7cgJqNEn
Michelle Lin, MD