Social Media & Healthcare Providers: We Need to Dive In



Social media can be overwhelming for those who are new to it and its various formats; however, we all need to learn to use social media effectively in order to remain current with healthcare information.  Twitter is faster than journal deliveries and it provides up-to-date access on the topics that interest you. Here are some tips I’ve learned from social media experts in a certification program I recently completed and from experts who spoke at Social Media Weekend 2016 at CUNY School of Journalism, a conference I’ve attended for the past two years. Hopefully these tips will help those who are brand new to social media or those who need a little fine tuning on Twitter.


  • What is the purpose of your account? Does it have a focus? My tweets generally focus on health and well-being. Yes, I may tweet something amusing once is a while, but by far, most of my tweets relate to various aspects of health and healthcare. I curate and disseminate healthcare information to those who follow my account.
  • Who should you follow?  Most of the people and organizations I follow are associated with healthcare (e.g., CDC, NIH), medicine, nursing, etc. Of course, I follow other interests as well, for example, the NY Times Travel Twitter account; Peter Souza, the official White House photographer; and others.
  • Who do I want to follow me? Well, anyone call follow you on Twitter, but generally, you’re trying to curate a group of like-minded individuals. I follow many nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians, and as I stated above, healthcare organizations. Many of these individuals and organizations follow me back.
    • Remember, you are not obligated to follow someone because they follow you, and if someone who follows you posts what you consider inappropriate content, you have the ability to go into your settings and block that account from following you.
  • How do I keep followers? You keep followers by posting regularly and by posting substantive content. I can’t really define what posting or tweeting regularly means. Some experts advise tweeting a certain amount of times per day every day. There should be some consistency so that your followers maintain an interest and regard you as a serious curator of information, but that doesn’t mean you have to stress to find information to post or tweet. After a while, you’ll find reliable sources that offer interesting topics to you and to your followers. 
    • Aim for quality not quantity. Don’t get caught up in the numbers game. I’ve gained and lost many followers. The goal is to gain followers who, like you, are interested in sharing knowledge and information.


Twitter “learns” the type of information that interests you, and based on this, makes suggestions about accounts you may be interested in following. That’s a really good thing because I would not have found some very knowledgeable  and interesting people and accounts because their bios really didn’t say much about them.

Take advantage of the header and bio sections of your Twitter account. This is where you tell people who you are, what you do, your interests, etc. This is what draws people to you especially people of similar interests.

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Maximize the Header and Bio Section

By no means is my Twitter account header and bio the best example, but it demonstrates a few important points.

  • Including a title or certification you hold will draw colleagues and individuals in related professions to your account. Because, I’m a nurse practitioner, I tend to seek out other NPs and other healthcare professionals.  If Jane Doe does not include NP, APN, DNP, RN, BSN, PA, or MD I would not know she is a healthcare professional unless I read her entire bio.
  • You can certainly use your name as your user ID or you may choose a user ID that reflects some aspect of your profession (@JaneDoeNP) , your education (@JaneDoePhD), or your interests (@JaneDoeSkyDiverNP). In my case, I chose @MedHeallthEd because it reflects an interest in medicine and healthcare, and the “Ed” reflects my interest in education or in editing.
  • Fill in your bio. You have more characters for your bio than you have for a tweet. That says something about the importance of your bio. Include the name of an organization affiliation, a company, etc., that viewers can link to in order to learn more about you, what you do, or what interests you. In my bio, you can see that I work with several publishers that concentrate on healthcare publication and education.
    • Put your current interest or whatever you would like to promote about yourself upfront. My bio says (I hope) that right now writing, reviewing, and editing, are very important to me, and again, I’ve included some of the companies with which I regularly work.
    • I’ve included my occupation, nurse practitioner, adding validity to my ability to write and edit healthcare content.
    • I’ve included the link to my blog to give viewers additional insight into healthcare and health-related issues I believe are important.
    • I’ve included the link to my website which is essentially an online CV (it need to be updated).
  • Your bio isn’t static. You can change it as often as you like to reflect current happenings in your life. For example, if your an educator, you may wish to include that in your bio or if you have achieved a monumental act such as running a marathon, you may wish to include that in your bio as well. It’s all about you.
  • Since it’s all about you, include a good photo. Not a selfie. Choose a pleasing photo. If you have a digital copy of a headshot, even better. Look inviting and friendly, and depending on the purpose of your account, look professional (see @DRBakerNP).
  • You see that floral background in the header of my account? Well the pros advise using that header space to further emphasize your role as a professional. It’s a good place to put images you believe best reflect something about you and the purpose of your account such as the name and logo of your practice or business. Obviously, I’ve opted to go different route and display my mother’s gardening.

Finding Content

Where do I find interesting topics to tweet about?  Two simple solutions to get you started:

1) Create a Google alert for a topic that interests you (Google “Goggle alert“, click on the link and follow the instructions for creating an alert). You will receive new articles about that topic whenever an article or publication mentions that topic online and as it filters into Google. The article will be delivered to the email account you provided when you created the alert. You can then read the article and determine if it’s worth tweeting to your followers or your followers’ followers. Remember, curate substantive content from reliable sources.

Avoid posting without at least reviewing or skimming the article to ensure its content is appropriate for your account.

2) Content from online newsletters you subscribe to are another potential source of information for curating content. This allows you to share information on topics you find interesting and that may be interesting to followers, potential followers, and individuals just looking for information on a topic.

How will people find what I have posted on a particular topic?

Use the Hashtag


When you post or tweet, place a hashtag in front of the key words. This allows your tweet to show up in a search for that topic. For example, lets say I’ve posted a tweet on telemedicine from a New York Times article (see image below). Note that I’ve placed a hashtag in front of the word telemedicine.

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Tweet on Telemedicine

Now let’s say someone is interested in learning more about telemedicine and enters the word “telemedicine” in the Twitter search box. All tweets that contained “#telemedicine”, including my post, will appear on a list with the most recent tweets appearing at the top of the list. Using the hashtag allows your tweets to be seen by more people than those who follow you.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 4.41.33 AM

Depending on your topic, you can place numerous hashtags in a single tweet, but most experts recommend no more than three. Tweets that seem to be a collection of hashtags generally do not compel individuals to read the tweet or explore the topic.

Final Thoughts

  • When an individual or an organization acknowledges that your content is worth following, acknowledge that “follow” by saying thank you. You never know when you may have cause to contact that follower in need of his or her expertise.
  • Be sure to look at a follower’s account before you decide to follow back that person or organization. If the content  is not something of interest to you, if it’s promotional or marketing, or just someone trying to collect followers, don’t follow back. Remember that when someone is contemplating following your account, their going to look at who you follow. That person is more likely to follow you if you follow individuals who post substantive content.
  • If for any reason, you have second thoughts about posting a tweet, don’t post it. Better to not post than to post and regret. Once it’s out there, there’s no turning back even though a tweet can be deleted.
  • Tweets are not private. Enough said?
  • Keep an account that reflects and maintains your professional image. Maintain a separate account for hobbies, entertainment, and family if your tweets will focus on your personal life more than your professional life.


When viewers come across your Twitter account, you want them to get a sense of who you are professionally and to some degree, personally. You want viewers and potential followers to sense that by following you they’re going to receive content worthy of their time and interest.

Twitter is fun and interesting, and it’s a great way to keep up-to-date with current healthcare information, research, news, etc. You’ll not only be up-to-date, but you’ll come to realize that you receive information faster than  more conventional means of communication. Information from the CDC, WHO, NIH, etc. arrive in your Twitter account long before any other means of communication.

Twitter offers healthcare professionals an efficient way to communicate and allow us to share knowledge with each other. Dive in. You won’t regret it!

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