Concerns About Privacy, Misinformation, and Misinterpretation
Twitter can have its drawbacks. Like other social media sites, Twitter makes it easy for medical professionals to accidentally disclose patients’ personal health information.7,9,10
“I have learned to avoid ‘hair-trigger’ tweeting when I’m emotional, say, after breaking bad news or learning of a death, because even the timing of a disclosure may reveal inadvertently the details about patient care,” Dr Lewis said.
Physicians use the #WithConsent hashtag to acknowledge that they have shared de-identified information — such as an unlabeled scan — after explicitly soliciting permission from the patient in question.
Another issue on Twitter and other social media sites is how misinformation might impact patients.9
“It can be hard to discern what information is based on the highest level of scientific evidence,” Dr Graff said. “Lay press reporting may cover prime-time advances in cancer care based on a study of a few mice. Charlatans try to sell snake oil to patients who are simply scared.”
Dr Graff suggests that physicians guide patients to trusted online resources. For her patients, she suggests the American Cancer Society, Cancer.Net, or the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.
Medical professionals and researchers also have to be careful about the intended messages of their posts on Twitter and other sites, as it can be easy to be misinterpreted. “All of us with voices on platforms have to be cognizant of this and prepare to course correct, if necessary,” Dr Taparra said.
“When my work has been misinterpreted, the community on my platform has responded on my behalf,” he added. “It’s OK not to engage in debates on Twitter when you can tell the other person might have an agenda. If the majority understand your message, that’s what’s important.”
Moving Beyond Twitter
Twitter users have said they will move on to other social media platforms if Twitter shuts down.
“A number of other platforms might house a Twitter outmigration — for example, Threads, Mastodon, Spoutible, or Blue Sky — but I haven’t fully explored any of them yet,” Dr Lewis said.
“Many physicians are trying out Threads,” Dr Graff said, “and we already connect on LinkedIn, like many other professionals.”
“It would be a loss for patients if Twitter shut down,” Dr Thompson said. “They can see how physicians think, disagree, and critique topics.”
He added, however, that medical professionals will always find ways to communicate with each other. “We are going back to live meetings and have our own networks,” he said.
Dr Dorff pointed out that Twitter helps medical professionals stay informed in a way that other sites and methods of communication might not. “It’s hard to keep up on your own. My colleagues digest information and tweet about it. I don’t think group chats serve the same function,” Dr Dorff said.
Some users who have established a presence on Twitter are hesitant to move to another platform.
“Other platforms might not be the right space for me to share my message,” Dr Taparra said. “I’m watching closely how Threads and other platforms are doing. I’ll wait a while to see how the landscape changes. It takes time to become established in one social media platform. I have a strong connection to people I interact with there. I don’t want to give that up. I hope that our community stays strong in the oncology space.”
Disclosures: Dr Lewis and Dr Taparra have no relationships to disclose. Dr Dorff disclosed relationships with Exelixis, Astra Zeneca, Astellas, Bayer, and Sanofi. Dr Graff disclosed relationships with HCA Healthcare, Pfizer, The Academy of Healthcare Learning, DAVA Oncology, MJH Life Sciences, WebMD/Medscape, Integrity CE, Medpage Today, MedIQ, Medical Education Consortium, Seagen, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Lily, Gilead Sciences, Daiichi Sankyo/Astra Zeneca, Menarini, and Paxman. Dr Thompson disclosed relationships with Tempus, Aurora Health Care, Doximity, Celgene, VIA Oncology, Takeda, Syapse Precision Medicine Council, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Epizyme, Janssen Oncology, Sanofi, Bristol-Myers Squibb, TG Therapeutics, Abbvie, PrECOG, Strata Oncology, Lynx Biosciences, Denovo Biopharma, ARMO BioSciences, GSK, and Amgen.
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