Trends in twitter use by physicians at the american society of clinical oncology annual meeting, 2010 and 2011

J Oncol Pract. 2012 May;8(3):173-8. doi: 10.1200/JOP.2011.000483. Epub 2012 Apr 17.


Purpose: Social media channels such as Twitter are gaining increasing acceptance as mechanisms for instantaneous scientific dialogue. Professional medical societies such as ASCO are using social media to expand the reach of scientific communications at and around their scientific meetings. This article examines the how Twitter use by oncologists expanded at the ASCO Annual Meetings from 2010 to 2011.

Methods: In both years, tweets that were specifically generated by physicians and that incorporated the official meeting hashtag were harvested from the public domain, and a discourse analysis was performed by three independent raters. Follow-up surveys were conducted to assess physician attitudes toward Twitter and its potential role in clinical practice.

Results: A combined total of 12,644 tweets were analyzed for 2010 and 2011. Although the number of physicians authoring tweets was small (14 in 2010, 34 in 2011), this group generated nearly 29% of the total meeting dialogue examined in this analysis in 2010 and 23% in 2011. Physicians used Twitter for reporting clinical news from scientific sessions, for discussions of treatment issues, for promotion, and to provide social commentary. The tangible impact of Twitter discussions on clinical practice remains unclear.

Conclusion: Despite the 140-character limit, Twitter was successfully used by physicians at the 2010 and 2011 ASCO Annual Meetings to engage in clinical discussions, whether or not an author was on site as a live attendee. Twitter usage grew significantly from 2010 to 2011. Professional societies should monitor these phenomena to enhance annual meeting attendee user experience.