ACR Promotes Twitter, Blogging at Annual Meeting

(ACR2014) Among the educational features at the ACR conference are two boot camps on social media skills and a partly staffed booth in the Exhibit Hall for would-be tweeters and bloggers.

You may think Tweeting is for the birds, not busy rheumatologists, but the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) begs to differ. It is including training in social media prominently among the clinical sessions at its annual meeting in Boston starting tomorrow.

The schedule includes 2 Social Media Boot Camps: “Twitter Basics” on Sunday, November 16, and “Blogging for Beginners” on Monday, November 17. Also, the ACR has given up space on the Exhibit Hall floor for a social media booth.

Why, with an active chat room on its own website, is the society actively promoting (other) social media? "Twitter has a wider reach and includes non members and patients," explained ACR vice president for education, Donna Hoyne.

Boot camp co-planner and presenter Paul Sufka MD, a rheumatologist blogger who practices with HealthPartners in St. Paul, MN, told Rheumatology Network:  “Medicine is quickly realizing that there are enormous benefits to social media. At a bare minimum, physicians can use it as a simple landing page so that patients and other physicians can find them, and it can be used for ongoing medical education.”

For researchers, promoting your work on social media might increase future citations. “Social media helps your work to be read by others,” said Sufka. “It is also useful for connecting with like-minded researchers, and can help you break out of your usual information silo, which can lead to more innovative ideas.” 

Rheumatology patients with chronic conditions often seek out medical information online they can trust, Sufka added, and you can help without giving actual advice. “If they can see that you’re a real person via your Twitter feed or blog, it helps build that trust, even if you’re not directly interacting with that person,” he said. “I don’t think physicians realize how much patients want to hear our voices online.”  

Sufka said he also uses Twitter to keep up with rheumatology research. “It helps me be aware of any discussions about the latest articles. I’m connected to rheumatology colleagues across the world, so if I have general questions, I can usually get answers within minutes to hours,” he said. “I also use Twitter to develop my own personal network, which has led to connections in both the medical and technology worlds.”

Twitter is not just about what the Kardashians had for breakfast, noted Ronan Kavanagh MD MRCP, a private-practice rheumatologist in Galway, Ireland, who also helped design the Boot Camp. “Twitter is a conversation with your rheumatology colleagues condensed into 140 characters or less, shared in real time. It’s a learning community of colleagues who share information," he wrote in an article in a preconference newsletter. "That has been the hook for me from the start.”

Blogging is a chance for rheumatologists to publish their thoughts and ideas on a platform they control completely. “If you’re particularly interested in a specific topic and publish a well-written post about it, you’d be surprised how many people who are also interested in that topic will read your blog and connect with you,” said Sufka.

For those who are new to social media, Sufka suggests starting with Twitter. “Start by following @ACRheum and searching the #ACR14 or #RheumEdu hashtags and browsing around. From here, break the ice by interacting by posting something that you find interesting or commenting to an ongoing conversation.”

The Social Media booth in the Exhibit Hall will be staffed by social media-savvy rheumatologists for 45 minutes at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Those who already know each other from Twitter (or who would like to join the “twellowship”) are invited to the #ACR14 Tweetup on Sunday from 4:30-6:00 PM in Room 150 of the Boston Convention Center.


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