Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Using Twitter in Health Professional Education: A Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Using Twitter in Health Professional Education: A Case Study

Article excerpt

PURPOSE: The vast majority of health care students, providers, and organizations utilize social media to access and share information. However, there is little research exploring integration of social media into health professional education. This case study describes how the social media site Twitter was used in a first-year physical therapy professionalism course to teach, support, and model professional online communication. METHODS: Twitter was used for discussion and sharing among 36 doctor of physical therapy (DPT) students enrolled in a first-year professionalism course. Participants completed four Twitter assignments. Outcome measures included student surveys of overall social media use, perceptions of Twitter use in the course, Twitter use during the course, and student engagement measured using a subset of questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). OUTCOMES: During the course, students posted a total of 337 tweets (mean 9.36 tweets/student). Pre- and post-course surveys showed an increase in academic and professional social media use. Perception of Twitter use in the course was generally positive. There was a small increase in mean NSSE score that was not statistically significant. DISCUSSION: Using Twitter in a physical therapy professionalism course was a positive experience for students and was associated with increased academic and professional social media use. Future studies are needed to determine whether deliberate teaching of social media as a professional technology competency will result in meaningful increases in professional online engagement and improved digital professionalism in health professional students and providers. J Allied Health 2015; 44(1):25-33.

HEALTH INFORMATION has become increasingly "social" over the past decade, with large numbers of consumers and health care providers going online to access and share health information. In 2012, 72% of American internet users reported they looked online for health information,1 and nearly 1 in 5 said they had used the internet to find other people with health conditions like theirs.2 One in 5 internet users reported they consult online reviews and rankings in selecting a health care provider or finding access to treatment.3 Almost half of consumers reported that information found on social media sites would influence decisions to seek a second opinion, choose a specific provider or facility, cope with a chronic condition, or manage diet, exercise, and stress.4 The increasingly accessible and social nature of online health information provides health care providers and organizations with an opportunity to use social media platforms to connect with consumers, contributing reliable online health information, amplifying positive health messages, and refuting inaccuracies.

Social media use among health care providers has increased dramatically over the past several years,5,6 and almost every health care organization has a social media presence. In early 2014, the Mayo Clinic reported that over 1,500 U.S. hospitals manage more than 6,500 social media accounts on sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.7 Many of these hospitals have also adopted social media policies and guidelines for employees and students. Health care professional organizations-including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, American Physical Therapy Association, and the American Society of HealthSystem Pharmacists-have adopted social media policies, positions, and/or standards to guide their members.8-12 These standards recognize social media as an opportunity for professional communication, to caution professionals against inappropriate use, and to outline recommendations and considerations for health care professionals to use social media within the framework of current ethical and legal standards. Given the move toward social media communication in health care and organizational adoption of professional social media standards, it is clear that appropriate social media use is a technology competency that health care professionals should possess. …

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