Washington: A new study has revealed that Twitter is the right prescription for sharing health research as using it can help physicians be better prepared to answer questions from their patients.
The study from the University of British Columbia, presented today at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), finds more and more health care professionals are embracing social media, which challenges common opinion that physicians are reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon.
Lead author Julie Robillard said that 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 six months monitoring conversations surrounding stem cell research related to spinal cord injury and Parkinson's disease on Twitter and found roughly 25 per cent of the tweets about spinal cord injury and 15 per cent of the tweets about Parkinson's disease were from health care professionals.
The study found the majority of tweets were about research findings, particularly the ones perceived as medical breakthroughs. The most shared content was links to research reports.
The study also found 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 mostly talked about new tools or methods being developed to conduct research.
Less than five per cent of the tweets spoke out against stem cell research, which surprised the researchers. Robillard added that they expected to see debate on stem cell controversy, but people are sharing ideas of hope and expectations much more than anything else.
Robillard believes social media can help physicians become more aware of what their patients are consuming about scientific research beyond traditional media. This could help temper patients' expectations about potential treatments.