Healthcare + Twitter

Twitter - fjromeroaBlog post by Colin Hung

Have we past the Twitter peak? Is Twitter in decline?

These were the questions that John Lynn @techguy and I recently debated. We were talking about how each of us were doing more and more outside of Twitter (like Blabs, podcasts and videos) and I made the comment that Twitter seemed to be slowly dying as a conduit for healthcare communication. John disagreed and pointed to sustained high volume of clickthrus to his various #HealthIT blogs via Twitter.

As is usual with John, he had some keen insight to offer:

I think we’re seeing the ascendency of video and visual, but not necessarily the decline of Twitter. Kind of reminds me of people who said that email was dead. Email is not dead and is still extremely powerful. Twitter is too. I do think the heyday of Twitter is over. Building a following on Twitter is so much harder because people aren’t looking to follow others anymore. Sure, they do it sometimes, but it’s not like at the beginning where they’re actively following large groups of people. That’s a hugely changing dynamic for Twitter

In the past, when you read something interesting on Twitter you followed the person who tweeted it. Being intelligent/funny/relevant/useful/consistent in your tweets resulted in more followers – often tens of thousands of followers. What John is saying is that in today’s world, people are being far more choosy on who they follow.

A few of my friends who have recently joined Twitter use it to consume information rather than as a platform to engage in the conversation. I never really gave it much thought until John sent me his message (above). Twitter’s metrics and marks of success have always been Tweet-and-follower centric. But if new users are joining and are not actively following people, how will the company (and by extension tweeters themselves) measure success?

In a healthcare context, perhaps Twitter will become more about personal connections and individual healthcare success stories rather than followers. Consider the example recently cited by Dr. Kevin Campbell MD, FACC @drkevincampbell in a Forbes interview where he helped one of Dr. Gia Sison’s @giasison in the Philippines via Twitter.

My favorite story is one in which I was able to help a colleague in the Philippines. I met Dr. Gia Sison virtually on Twitter several years ago. We regularly interacted on Twitter—she is a primary care doctor in a small suburb of Manilla and often has to care for very complex issues that (in the US) would be referred to a specialist. Thru our Twitter interactions, I was able to provide her with current updates in the treatment of cardiac issues.

One evening she sent me a direct message on Twitter about one of her patients who was experiencing symptoms consistent with an arrhythmia that resulted in Congestive Heart Failure. I was able to direct her to a physician in Manilla who is in my specialty of Electrophysiology. I was able to contact that physician and (with both Dr Sison and her patient’s permission) discuss the case and recommend the appropriate treatment. Her patient was treated successfully and has recovered completely. Social media led to this very successful outcome. This demonstrates the power of social media—I was able to connect and interact with people located on the other side of the world.

This story really puts things into context for me. It didn’t matter how many followers each person has, or how wide their social influence is – Dr. Campbell and Dr. Sison connected on Twitter, established a trusted relationship and used the platform to help a patient. What they achieved for this patient would have been almost impossible without the power of social media.

Unfortunately for Twitter, this type of social impact does not register on any report and does not drive any revenue to its shareholders. Instead of pushing to foster more of this type of interaction, Twitter is busy trying to figure out more ways to monetize their platform – which means more sponsored tweets and other forms of targeted advertising. I don’t blame Twitter for doing this, they are a business and have to survive, but as more ad-related tweets appear and as more companies use Twitter as their megaphone, Twitter’s grassroots user core will go elsewhere.

This may, already be happening. According to a recent Pew Research post, Twitter’s user growth has plateaued:

Twitter User Growth Flattens


What does this all mean? Will Twitter go the way of MySpace and become a ghost town in a few years? Will Twitter continue to be a useful platform for those of us in healthcare? Or have people already begun to shift to other social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Figure1 or Sermo?

Please join in our #hcldr tweetchat on Tuesday June 28th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the following topics:

  • T1 Do you have a Twitter Healthcare story? Something +ve that happened because of Twitter?
  • T2 Is Twitter here to stay? Or will it be a ghost town in 5 years?
  • T3 What other social media platforms do you engage in for Healthcare and why?
  • T4 In 3 years will social media for healthcare be used in the same way as today? Or will a new use emerge?


“Social Media Usage: 2005-2015”, Andrew Perrin, Pew Research Center, 8 October 2015,, accessed 26 June 2016

“5 Facts about Twitter at age 10”, Drew Desilver, Pew Research, 18 March 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

“Is Social Media The Future of Healthcare?”, Joanna Belby, Forbes,, accessed 26 June 2016

“Social media ‘likes’ healthcare: From marketing to social business”, PwC’s Health Research Institute, 2012,, accessed 26 June 2016

“Is it time to change the way we use social media in medicine?” Patricia Mathelier,, 17 May 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

“How social media changed this oncologist’s life” Nathan A Pennell MD PhD,, 7 May 2016,, accessed 16 June 2016

“5 Social Media Trends For Healthcare Marketers in 2016”, Bailey Woodling, Jennings Healthcare Marketing, 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

“How Social Media Is Shaking Up Public Health and Healthcare”, Shannon Dosemagen and Lee Aase, Huffington Post, 27 January 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

“Why healthcare organisations need to invest in social media”, Lucile Stengel, Pulsar, 6 June 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

“The reason why Twitter is losing active users”, Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review, 12 February 2016,, accessed 26 June 2016

Image Credit

Twitter – fjromeroa

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Brendon's Blog and commented:
    If you haven’t already, check out the HCLDR Twitter chats every Tuesday evening (Eastern time). They’re insightful and a great way to connect with others who are tackling similar challenges in healthcare. I especially liked this one about healthcare and Twitter — and another recent one about creating movements in healthcare.

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