This post is the first in a Croakey series based upon links found on Twitter over the past several weeks. It covers health news from the world of social media and related technologies. Other posts in the series will link to recent news related to public health, health care, conflicts of interest in heath care, and health journalism.

The series is for those who still need convincing that Twitter is a treasure trove of useful information and contacts – and for those who don’t have the time to trawl Twitter. (It’s also to help justify the amount of time I spend on Twitter, to give me something to show for all those hours. If you follow Croakey on Twitter, you may have already seen some of these resources).

Social media and health news

• This screencast on using Twitter for medical education  has been posted by Welcome to the Southampton Emergency Medicine Education Project, a website that “aims to educate, inspire and entertain anyone who is interested in Emergency Medicine”, and is produced by  emergency physicians from Southampton University Hospital Emergency Department. Other screencasts from this group cover using Itunes to download podcasts for medical education,  and a guide to finding internet based learning resources.

• A series of “webinars” will be held for healthcare leaders on how they can use social media. These are being run out of the US and it’s not immediately clear whether they are open to other countries, but more details are here. They aim to “thoroughly communicate to healthcare leaders the power of engaging and interacting with patients, strengthening the experience and attracting new patients, through social media tools online”. (Update, 13 Jan: the organisers have advised: webinar’s open to all; it’s US-regs-focused, but much of the material is applicable anywhere.)

• This BMJ blog explains why Twitter is increasingly relevant to doctors and discusses how to use it as a professional networking tool. It says: “Twitter provides doctors with access to a vast global professional network of commissioners, providers, journals, patients, clinicians, and many others. Twitter’s open network crosses geographical and interprofessional boundaries. Importantly, it flattens hierarchies—where else can a junior doctor strike up a conversation with the editor of the BMJ (@fgodlee)?”

• Now that we have e-patients, this medical blogger argues that we also need e-doctors.

• That same medical blogger’s diagnosis of seven social media mistakes made in health care (the first one is avoidance…)

• To create guidelines that will help health care workers safely navigate in cyberspace, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar Dr Ryan Greysen is “conducting ongoing research with state medical boards to find out just what problems may arise when physicians and other medical professionals use the Internet”.

• Meanwhile, some tips on how to use Twitter effectively.

• The goal of the “Healthcare Hashtag Project” is to make Twitter more accessible for the healthcare community. It says: “…we hope to help new and existing users alike to find the conversations that are of interest and importance.”

• An Australian – Ed Butler from Brisbane (@ej_butler) – is one of the top health IT people on Twitter, according to this list, which gives some useful tips for people to follow. It says: “Each of the following Twitter feeds comprise significant voices – individuals and organizations – involved in the development of and commentary on healthcare standards, policy, current events and debates that are defining the future of the healthcare IT industry. As social media leaders, they make up the foundation for the health IT information network on the Web and are shaping the future of health IT for all of those involved, from patients to providers and all in between.”

American Medical News reports that hospitals in the US are hiring staff members dedicated solely to social media, and to getting physicians to use these tools.

• While some media dinosaurs continue to bag Twitter (you know who I mean…), the rest of us find it very useful for linking us into pieces like these which put quite a different slant on recent media reports about failures of the contraceptive Implanon: from Ben Goldacre in PLoS Medicine, and the Behind the Headlines service in the UK.

• A group at Georgetown University have released a paper, Using Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messaging.

• This Wall Street Journal report describes the use of smartphone apps to help caregivers of elderly people keep track of medication dosages, nutritional requirements and other daily health-care needs. It says that more than 8,700 health-related applications are available across the three main platforms, according to a September 2010 study by MobiHealthNews. The iPhone leads the pack in terms of quantity of health-related apps, with 7,136 in September, up 67% from February.

• On a similar theme, the LA Times reports on a new technology that helps patients take their medications regularly by sending reminder calls, weekly e-mail reports and monthly updates to patients and caregivers. It makes everyday pill bottles “smart.” It fits on standard prescription bottles and uses light and sound reminders to alert people when they should take their medication. These warnings can be followed by a phone call or text message so they don’t miss a dose.

• Some US surgeons are using iPads in operating rooms to access, and The Journal of Surgical Radiology has published a report about Dr. Felasfa Wadajo, an orthopedic surgeon at Georgetown University, and his use of iPads in his practice in the January 2011 issue.

• The Wall Street Journal reports on a new company that is using social networking for a variety of uses in healthcare, including to refine pharmaceutical marketing.

• On a similar note, Time magazine reports on how pharma marketing is using social media, and how regulators are responding (or not).

• And The Wall Street Journal reports that medical companies are giving doctors iPads and other high-tech sweeteners.

Craig Thomler (who is definitely worth a follow on Twitter if your interest is health and web/govt 2.0) recommends a video explaining how workplaces can use social media and the need for companies/organisations need to develop new communications approaches. It’s not specific to healthcare and is fairly basic, but gives a useful introduction/overview.

• If only Twitter had pointed me to this site in time for my Christmas shopping. Certain lucky people may well have ended up with ties bearing the mark of various infections, perhaps the giardia or avian flu neckties. For myself (and hopefully this is no inkblot test), my favourite is the “mad cow necktie”, pictured below.

A suitable tie??
A suitable tie??

• And if you still need convincing of Twitter’s merits, you can now find Atul Gawande there (@Atul_Gawande). His Twitter profile describes him as a “Surgeon, Writer, Researcher, Dilettante”, but others might call him one of the world’s best writers on medicine and healthcare. He recently tweeted a link to this essay on leadership in the military which may be of interest to health care chiefs.

• Meanwhile, this is a cute yarn about how one person used Twitter to score, amongst other things, a guided tour of the White House.

• And here are 2010’s most powerful Tweets, according to Twitter.

OK. That’s it for now. If you still think Twitter is not worth a look, then stay tuned for the rest of the series…

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