I first heard of twitter in 2007, more than a year after its inception. At the time it had gained some traction in the technology press. The biggest stumbling block for me was the lack of a wide user base, with the majority of early adopters being computer scientists and technology journalists. Fast forward to 2013, and twitter seems to have expanded to every corner of society, and as ever with new technology, urologists across the world have taken an active role in the uptake and use of twitter in the medical community.
What is twitter and how do you use it?
Twitter is a simple to use online micro blogging and social networking service. It enables a user to publish or “tweet” a text based message of up to 140 characters. Signing up for twitter is free and takes less than a minute. When you join you are encouraged to follow either individuals or groups who you may be interested in.
Posting a tweet is extremely simple and when performed from a smartphone is exactly like sending a text message. The message can either be posted publicly or only to selected individuals that are approved by the user. Most twitter feeds are published in the public domain and can contain links like http://twitter.com. Users or groups are identified with “@” before their username e.g. @drhwoo. Hashtags are used to connect people who want to discuss a particular common topic e.g. at the EAU Conference 2013 the hashtag used to group the conversations was “#eau13”. Users can also post photos which other users can view as links through twitter.
The increasing popularity of social media such as twitter has led to new guidelines from the GMC regarding Doctors’ use of social media(1). Since their publication, the guidelines have been seen as controversial in some quarters, as they recommend that users who represent themselves as doctors in social media should identify themselves by name and keep to the standards expected for doctors. This has led to some doctors criticising this approach, as restricting their ability to post anonymously on social media infringes articles 8 and 10 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantee a right to a private life and a right to freedom of expression(2). Additionally, the BJUI has also published guidelines for engaging responsibly with social media.
One of the more interesting spontaneous developments has been the development of the International Urology Journal Club co-ordinated by Dr Henry Woo (@drhwoo). This monthly international journal club has been well supported by the urological community and has seen some of the lead authors on the latest urological publications contributing to the debate. The International Urology Journal Club can be found on twitter @iurojc. The hashtag for joining the discussion is #urojc. Discussions start on the first Sunday or Monday of the month dependant on your time zone.
Twitters scope is broad and it has been used in medical education(3), engaging people in public health and policy discussions, peer review of articles and facilitating patient access to reliable health information. Twitter offers a versatile platform for expressing opinions regarding the world and its rapid growth may see it evolve further into a vital piece of technology for every urologists smartphone. If you get the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending a session on social media at a urology conference. It is a great place to learn about tweeting and meet a lot of the people who you may only know by their twitter name. Listed below is a series of popular urologists and groups relevant to urologists which can be found on twitter.
- Doctors’ use of social media [Internet]. [cited 2013 Jul 15]. Available from: http://www.gmc-uk.org/publications/21833.asp
- Jaques H. GMC defends guidance on social media anonymity. BMJ Careers 9 Apr 2013.http://careers.bmj.com/careers/advice/view-article.html?id=20011682.
Murphy DG, Loeb S, Basto MY, Challacombe B, Trinh Q-D, Leveridge M, et al. Engaging responsibly with social media: the BJUI Guidelines. BJU Int. 2014 Apr 1; http://www.bjuinternational.com/bjui-blog/engaging-responsibly-with-social-media-the-bjui-guidelines/
- Forgie SE, Duff JP, Ross S. Twelve tips for using Twitter as a learning tool in medical education. Med. Teach. 2013 Jan;35(1):8–14.
@uroweb –European Association of Urology
@BJUIjournal – British Journal of Urology
@UrologyTimes – News Source for Urologists
@TheBMA – British Medical Association
@SURG_UK – Specialist Urology Registrars Group
@WHO – World Health Organization
@drhwoo – Dr Henry Woo, Prostate Surgeon and Co-ordinator of #urojc (see above)
@declangmurphy – Dr Declan Murphy, Urologist and Associate Editor of Social Media BJUI
@prokarurol – Professor Prokar Dasgupta, Editor in Chief BJUI
@jimcatto – Mr James Catto, Urologist and Editor in Chief Elect of European Urology
@loebstacy – Dr Stacey Loeb, Urologist and Researcher
@qdtrinh – Dr Quoc-Dien Trinh, Urological Surgeon
@MattBultitude – Mr Matthew Bultitude, Urological Surgeon
@benchallacombe – Mr Ben Challacombe, Urological Surgeon
Other medical professionals
@Atul_Gawande, Surgeon and Writer
@bengoldacre, Doctor and Writer
@ProfRWinston, Professor Robert Winston, Doctor and Presenter
Ivo Dukic, ST7 in Urology, East Lancashire NHS Hospitals, twitter @urolsurg