Working with social media savvy Joanna Chan, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the impact that twitter can have on advancing the PA profession. We can use the tools that are available to us (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) to reach out to important stakeholders in health care – our own PA community, patients, patient advocacy groups, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other health care professionals.
Strength in Numbers – One problem I’ve come across in trying to promote the PA profession in Canada via twitter is – there aren’t really a lot of Physician Assistants in Canada. According to CAPA’s website at this time of writing only 329 Physician Assistants are certified (c.f. 70,000+ PAs in the US). From that pool of a few hundred PAs in Canada, there is currently a list of 70+ Canadian PAs and PA students on twitter (without a clear picture of who is active, and who posts PA-related material).
If you’re ready to sign up for a twitter account, you can skip on to part 2 in this series: How to use Twitter. Otherwise you can get twitter Do’s and Don’ts in part 3: Twitter Etiquette, or learn about advanced twitter use with hashtags and twitter chats.
Addressing Public Awareness of PAs
If you ask any patient, “Do you know what a Nurse Practitioner is?” – often more than not the answer is yes. NPs have led an excellent awareness campaign both in Canada and the US. Whereas in the States, although PAs have been around for 40 years, many patients (and health care practitioners) do not know what a PA is.
A few of Canadian PAs and PA students have started blogs, and are on twitter. It is excellent start. However, I am a firm believer in the more [positive] exposure the profession can get in Canada – the more awareness the general public will have.
I put this together as a quick guide, and it is not meant to be an exhaustive report of all the do’s and don’ts in social media. See Mashable’s Beginner’s Guide to Twitter for the basic how-to’s.
So Why Should PAs join Twitter?
- A lot of conversations are taking place on Twitter, especially those relevant to health care. Physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses are very prominent in the twittersphere. So are the Physician Assistants south of the border.
- However, PAs in Canada have yet to make an impact in social media. This is an excellent avenue to get started to spread awareness and promote the profession among other PA professionals, health care professionals, and patients.
- Today’s patients are social media and tech savvy. They are looking for information online and receiving information from their Twitter and Facebook Feeds. PAs need to be part of that conversation.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a “microblogging site” where conversations can take place. For those unfamiliar, I often like to describe it is similar to the “status update” and “sharing links/photos” feature on Facebook.
Twitter has been a powerful medium for health care providers and organizations for having conversations, building communities and spreading patient education information. We must follow strict HIPAA and PHIPPA regulations and maintain patient confidentiality.
- There are over 100,000+ health care professionals using twitter
- 3 million + tweets on health care, with ~30,000 tweets per day on the topic
- Twitter is used to spread quality health related information through updates, sharing, and promotion
Twitter allows you to:
- Reach out to a wider audience, with a public account anyone can see your tweets and easily find your tweets.
- Have direct communication with your followers you can easily direct message or simply reply via a public tweet
- See information about a topic using hashtags. You can see what patients, providers, organizations, and industries are saying about a specific topic. This may be valuable for research purposes.
- Allows you to quickly disseminate information on charitable causes, disease awareness and professional advocacy (e.g. #CanadaNeedsPAs!)
I’ve listed a few ways Physician Assistants can get involved on Twitter:
How PAs can use Twitter
Follow people and organizations on twitter: If you “Follow” someone on twitter, their tweets will show up when you login. I like to follow Andre Picard (@PicardonHealth) who writes for The Globe And Mail on health issues affecting Canadians, the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (@CAPAACAM), as well as some Health Care Organizations such as the Ontario Medical Association (@OntariosDoctors). These are just a few examples.
Share PA related news: If you find a news item, you can post the title of the article along with the link, or simply retweet a piece of news you think is relevant.
Follow health care topics using hashtags (#): Instead of following an account, you can view conversations taking place about topics using hashtags. You can click on hashtags which will display all tweets related to that topic, or you can search for tweets.
Participate in tweet chats: Tweet chats use a twitter hash tag to create a conversation around a topic at a designated day and time. For example, the tweet chat #hcldr meets on Tuesday Evenings at 5 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST). There is usually a topic (e.g. Technology in health care), with 3 topics.
- In a tweet chat, the moderator posts the Topic 1 Question (Topic 1 would be labelled “T1” for short, T1: How is EMR used in your practice? #hcldr)
- Participants reply the topic 1 question: (e.g. T1: We implemented EMR and use it for everything! #hcldr). The hashtag #hcldr must be included so people can track replies to the answer. This is repeated for the other topic questions (T2 and T3).
Professional Networking: Networking happens when you build connections with other health care professions and organizations on twitter. This occurs with following these influencers, replying and/or retweeting some of their tweets, and participating in health care tweet chats. Connect with other Canadian PAs that are also using twitter.
Connect with patient communities: If you are a health care provider in a certain field, or commonly see patients with certain conditions, you can connect to patient support communities using twitter hashtags. There are some disease specific hashtags or follow #epatient which stands for “Equipped, empowered, enabled and engaged patient” (Symplur).
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