Twitter Will Change Healthcare! 140 Ways to Use Twitter in Healthcare


If you remember, MMP recently had a post about Twitter, and some ideas I had about the use of Twitter in a medical practice.  Since then, Twitter has exploded onto the healthcare scene.  Last Sunday I participated in an online Twitter online meetup discussing social media in healthcare.  The Twitterati (those who twitter) included medical students, physicians, payer representatives, consultants, patient advocates, patients and me.  The long and the short of the discussion was that the world of healthcare, full of traditionally slow technology adopters, has amazing potential for using social media to reduce waste, improve efficiency, allow staff and caretakers to give more time to patients, and possibly reduce healthcare costs.

Phil Bauman, “a Registered Nurse with a background in critical care, drug safety, accountancy, finance, treasury operations, and recruiting” wrote the following in his blog post of January 18, 2009:


With 26 letters in the alphabet arranged within 140 characters, there are over 1.2 x 10^198 possible character combinations. Of course, the number of meaningful sentences is far less than that but a point stands out: there’s a virtually infinite number of short pulses of (meaningful) information that Twitter can facilitate.

With that kind of power, health care should be a leader in micro-sharing, not a lagger.

Phil put together a very impressive list of 140 Healthcare Uses for Twitter.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Disaster alerting and response
  2. Maintaining a personal health diary
  3. Emitting critical laboratory values to nurses and physicians
  4. Issuing Amber alerts
  5. Environmental alerts: pollen counts, pollution levels, heat waves, severe weather alerts
  6. Updating patient family members during procedures

Click here to see the entire list, which is also available in an eBook, and in SlideShare.

Just in case you missed the first article, here is a recap on using Twitter:

  • Go to and sign up for FREE (choose a name and a password)
  • You can use Twitter on the web or on your phone – you can look at it once a day (you don’t have to look at it and respond to it instantly.)
  • Once you’re signed up, you can start “following” people and they can “follow” you.  I am following people who have interesting things to say about healthcare, and also people who are writing blogs like me.
  • Start by following me (@mpwhaley) and I’ll be glad to follow you.

If you’d like to use Twitter and need some help, email me at and I’ll be glad to talk you through it.

Posted in: Innovation, Learn This: Technology Answers, Social Media

Leave a Comment (5) ↓


  1. Pediatricinc February 19, 2009


    Great post. I think Twitter is just one of the many ways health care can embrace social media. Although I suspect many of the arguments for it are too far fetch. Or maybe ahead of its time.

    There is much inefficiency in healthcare ”“ and although I agree we can overcome many of those inefficiencies with social media ”“ many more pressing matters need to be resolved first. But as I’ve said before, don’t let our pursuit of perfection hinder our ability to try new things.

    What is your user name on Twitter so we can follow you?

    Practice Manager

    • Mary Pat Whaley February 19, 2009

      Hi Brandon,

      Thanks for your comment. I think getting medical providers to use social media and other new technology is a great thing to do while everyone is debating over the big stuff! Everyone gets nervous when I talk about using technology to be more interactive with patients and be more efficient in healthcare, but I’m not talking about the big bucks that EMR and other software costs. I recently set up a payment portal for my practice to be able to arrange payment plans on patient credit cards. Both parties win when everyone knows the cost of medical services up front and can make arrangements to suit both, and everyone wins when no financial information is kept in the practice or on the practice server. This technology costs less than $4K and has already paid for itself many times over in the first month! This is just one example.

      I think we already follow each other on Twitter – I am @mpwhaley.


      Mary Pat

  2. Andrzej April 19, 2009

    Interesting theory, but given that medical information can be highly sensitive, and Twitter has no guarantee of privacy (by definition, Twitter is a 3rd party in between the physician and the patient), so much information cannot be legally transmitted using twitter.

    The authors intention is admirable, but the realities of privacy legislation with respect to healthcare info makes many applications non-starters.

    For example, you cannot even send a reminder of an appointment, since the physician might specialize in HIV or mental health, and since Twitter is not private/encrypted end to end, it might inadvertantly reveal that a patient is seeing a doctor for a “sensitive” condition.

    Not gonna fly.

    Pity…but such is life.

    • Mary Pat Whaley April 20, 2009

      Thanks for your comment, Andrzej.

      All new tools deserve brainstorming and discussion to fully explore their potential.

      As a patient, I would be willing to sign off on having my physician’s office contact me via Twitter to let me know that the doctor was running late. Would it work for all patients and all physician offices? Probably not. Could it work for some and make the physician office more efficient and the patient more satisfied? Most definitely!

      Mary Pat