Twitter is the right prescription for sharing health research as using it can help physicians be better prepared to answer questions from their patients, suggests a study from the University of British Columbia.
The study found that more and more health care professionals are embracing social media, which challenges the common opinion that physicians are reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon. Lead author Julie Robillard said, "Many people go online for health information, but little research has been done on who is participating in these discussions or what is being shared."
Researchers spent 6-months monitoring conversations surrounding stem cell research related to spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease on Twitter and found roughly 25 percent of the tweets about spinal cord injury and 15 percent of the tweets about Parkinson's disease were from health care professionals. The study revealed that the majority of tweets were about research findings, particularly the ones perceived as medical breakthroughs. The most shared content was links to research papers.
Researchers also found that the users tweeting about spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease differed. Users who tweeted about spinal cord injury talked about clinical trials, while users who tweet about Parkinson's disease talked about new tools or methods being developed to conduct research. About less than 5 percent of the tweets spoke out against stem cell research. Robillard said, "We expected to see debate on stem cell controversy, but people are sharing ideas of hope and expectations much more than anything else."
The study was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).