Background: Most consider Twitter as a tool purely for social networking. However, it has been used extensively as a tool for online discussion at nonmedical and medical conferences, and the academic benefits of this tool have been reported. Most anesthetists still have yet to adopt this new educational tool. There is only one previously published report of the use of Twitter by anesthetists at an anesthetic conference. This paper extends that work.
Objective: We report the uptake and growth in the use of Twitter, a microblogging tool, at an anesthetic conference and review the potential use of Twitter as an educational tool for anesthetists.
Methods: A unique Twitter hashtag (#WSM12) was created and promoted by the organizers of the Winter Scientific Meeting held by The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) in London in January 2012. Twitter activity was compared with Twitter activity previously reported for the AAGBI Annual Conference (September 2011 in Edinburgh). All tweets posted were categorized according to the person making the tweet and the purpose for which they were being used. The categories were determined from a literature review.
Results: A total of 227 tweets were posted under the #WSM12 hashtag representing a 530% increase over the previously reported anesthetic conference. Sixteen people joined the Twitter stream by using this hashtag (300% increase). Excellent agreement (κ = 0.924) was seen in the classification of tweets across the 11 categories. Delegates primarily tweeted to create and disseminate notes and learning points (55%), describe which session was attended, undertake discussions, encourage speakers, and for social reasons. In addition, the conference organizers, trade exhibitors, speakers, and anesthetists who did not attend the conference all contributed to the Twitter stream. The combined total number of followers of those who actively tweeted represented a potential audience of 3603 people.
Conclusions: This report demonstrates an increase in uptake and growth in the use of Twitter at an anesthetic conference and the review illustrates the opportunities and benefits for medical education in the future.