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Sep 20, 2013 · 6 Replies

Should Chats on Twitter Have Disclosures?

By Matthew Katz, MD @mattkatz

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I've been participating in multiple live conversations on Twitter that have been very rewarding.  These tweetups, or tweetchats, offer an opportunity to share information, network, and enhance advocacy for improving healthcare.  But do we need to give people some caveats about sharing?

In the setting of discussions like #hcsm or #meded, where it's general conversation but not specific diseases, not necessarily.  However, when it comes to attracting people with a certain health condition it may be different.  Tweetchats can be very engaging, and keeping up with the conversation means it's easy for someone to accidentally share more about himself or herself than intended while caught up in the flow of conversation.  Sharing health information isn't necessarily a problem but an otherwise cautious, private person may forget that Twitter is a public forum.

The other main issue is that community is a double-edged sword.  It's fantastic at reducing isolation and allows people to find others with similar concerns and passions.  However, it also means that it may amplify some negative aspects of healthcare experience or disease experience that otherwise wouldn't be as bothersome.  Doctors may find themselves more dissatisfied from gravitating toward other frustrated clinicians online than they would if they only interacted with immediate colleagues.  Cancer patients may go through more grieving and stress because they've magnified their exposure to people with a potentially life-threatening condition exponentially.

I've been involved in helping develop a new tweetchat #gyncsm for discussions around gynecologic cancer.  For that chat I developed a disclaimer to share with each tweetup which is now posted by one of the founding members.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or not?

Editor’s Note: Matt Katz, MD is a member of the External Advisory Board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.


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Posted by @LeeAase, Sep 20, 2013

Good thoughts. I like the idea of having reminders to encourage people to stop and think about what they are posting online. We do something like this on our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog, too.


Posted by @fabamy, Sep 20, 2013

I have been moderating #kidneychat since March. Many of the people who participate sign up for Twitter SOLELY for this chat, so I need to keep it as simple as possible. Even though I've been on there for over five years, some of these people are brand new.
I guess it all depends on the target audience. I just want to create a circle of kidney donors, recipients, and those looking for kidneys.


Posted by @mattkatz, Sep 25, 2013

Thanks for sharing Amy. It could be simple as one opening tweet that links to a more involved explanation. My thinking was just that transparency is important. Another issues discussed on twitter was conflicts of interest, which might be relevant to those considering donating kidneys, or receiving them.


Posted by @fabamy, Jan 7, 2014

Explain the conflicts of interest, because I'm a donor and donated because of a tweet. I just don't understand what you mean. 🙂


Posted by @mattkatz, Jan 7, 2014

Hi Amy:
For medicine, we should report financial conflicts of interest where relevant. Tweeting is a form of solicitation so the tweeter should make it clear whether it's an attempt to 'attract business' versus simply help fill a need and reach potential donors.

Will likes this

Posted by @fabamy, Jan 7, 2014

Makes sense. Thanks for clarifying!

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