Twitter for medical education

Twitter link to world2

Thanks for checking out TeamHaem.com. As you will have seen we have uploaded numerous cases in stages, and the full catalogue can be seen on the site. At the end of each case we have written a summary with resources available for further reading. We hope that this is a useful resource for anyone wanting to learn about the presentation, differential diagnosis, investigation and management of a range of haematological disorders.

So, you may wonder, why bother with the Twitter bit? Why not just read the case in retrospect? What does this social media (SoMe for those in the know) thing add to my learning?

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this page you’re not so familiar with Twitter so let me explain how it works (a dummy’s guide if you will) and then try to explain why it is a good educational tool.

Twitter is a micro-blog. Basically in a limited number of characters a person can say something or show something (a photo, video or link). Anyone who has ‘followed’ that person will see their ‘tweets’ on their timeline.

When you set up a Twitter account you have a blank slate – you haven’t followed anyone and your timeline will be empty. What’s a timeline you ask? Everyone has a timeline – a real-time collection of the tweets of all the people they follow. So, if you ONLY follow us (@TeamHaem) you will ONLY see our tweets – no messages about Justin Bieber or X-Factor/Great British Bake Off etc. In this way you have total control of ‘your’ Twitter – follow only medical people and Twitter will be  a medical resource; follow the BBC or newspapers and get news; follow local theatres and bars for deals and upcoming events – you get the idea.

So, you’ve created a Twitter account and have followed @TeamHaem. What next?

When we start a case it is automatically announced on Twitter. So keep an eye on your timeline and you will see something along the lines of:

case intro

If you then click on the link you will be redirected to the blog where you can read the case. So far so good. The good bit of Twitter is not this, because you could just check the blog yourself, right?

The good bit is the debate that we curate afterwards. We invite people to read the case and comment on the case. And comment they do! Imagine sitting in a huge lecture theatre with a thousand people – some are medical and nursing students, some are junior doctors, haematologists, consultants in other fields, pharmacists, biomedical scientists, maybe even charities and patient groups. Then imagine everyone getting to share their opinions in an open, friendly conversation where everyone could be heard, no one was afraid to look dumb and everyone helped to explain to you the details you felt confused about if you needed it. THEN imagine that a leading expert in any given topic dropped by, chatted a bit and moved on. Imagine another specialist disagreed and they pulled out papers to support their opinion, handing out copies to everyone in the room. And then imagine that classroom experience being available for you to look back through, at your own time, whenever suited you. Sounds pretty great? That is what following a case on Twitter can be like. Okay, so we don’t have a renowned expert join in with every case, but our team has some pretty illustrious members, and we’re not afraid to ask their opinion!

We might ask you questions sometimes – by putting @joebloggs in our question you will get a message that will ping your phone – so you will know we’ve addressed you. But we won’t pick on anyone and you can join in as little or as much as possible. We use the questioning to draw people in – to make the most of the expertise out there. Because we’ve been networking for a while we know quite a few experts, but we know also a whole army of regular health care professionals working in hospitals just like yours. And that’s important for us all – we all need to know how to do real-life medicine, as well as hear what is said by our ivory-tower colleagues.

The way of gaining access to that lecture theatre debate is the hashtag. The reason for this is that unless you also follow every member of TeamHaem (ie everyone who follows us) you won’t ‘hear’ (i.e. see on your timeline) what they say. But if a tweet contains #TeamHaem and you enter #TeamHaem into your search bar you will see every comment on Twitter containing that hashtag, whether you follow that person or not. That’s why we ask you to include the hashtag when you a join in the debate – so that other people will ‘hear’ your contributions in the lecture theatre.

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When you first look at the tweets of regular users they can be a bit off-putting: just like medicine, Twitter has its own language. But unlike medicine you don’t need a professional qualification. In fact it only takes a few visits to be able to scan the timelines and extract from them what you need.

You might find the following image handy in the early days:

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Not convinced?

Getting a drink

What else can following @TeamHaem on Twitter, rather than simply browsing the blog, offer you?

We love Twitter (did you guess that yet?) and try to keep abreast of haematological news and publications shared on Twitter. We can’t promise to provide a comprehensive news feed (we have jobs and families that require our attention occasionally!) but Twitter isn’t about being comprehensive – to go back to our lecture theatre metaphor it is more like sticking your head into a great haematology conference, listening for a few minutes, then leaving again. Do that often enough and you’ll definitely hear the really big news – groundbreaking research, big trial data and so on – and you’ll also hear about some of the smaller, but still interesting, stuff – papers, conferences, seminars, useful websites and apps and so on.  So that’s what we try to do for you – keep our ears open and share the interesting, useful or amusing stuff we hear. Be warned – the jokes are seriously geeky.

Tell me more…

There are a lot of blogs out there about the use of Twitter and other social media for medical education. There are other specialties that do it better too – the A&E docs are particularly great, but there are some great geriatricians, GPs and acute medics tweeting away out there. Try a couple of these links if you want to find out a bit more,

but if you do nothing else, download the Twitter app, follow @TeamHaem, join in with cases and let us show you the way of Twitter – you will be a better doctor/nurse/pharmacist/scientist/student for it. Enjoy!

Social Media Resources

Social media: the way forward or a waste of time for physicians?

BMA Social Media guidelines

Twitter tips for beginners

Social Media for Health Professionals – Benefits and Pitfalls

Getting started in social media

Twitter 101 – signing up

Twitter 102 – account settings

Try these hashtags:

@TeamHaem; search for #TeamHaem to see what is going on

@ECGclass / #ecgclass – ECGs made easy

@twitfrg / #twitfrg – medical students flexing their SoMe muscles

@twitjc – journal club, meets on Sunday evenings 8pm

#ukmeded – discussion group relating to medical education in the UK

#FOAMed – international SoMe medical education hashtag – some of these guys are the founding fathers of medical education via SoMe and are truly passionate about what they do…