'Twitter Doctors' Lists Medical Kings of Social Media

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Twitter Doctors is a new online directory that is trying to rank all of the doctors with Twitter accounts, putting the ones with the highest influence score at the top. The directory also lists the number of tweets, followers, and retweets each doctor has. However, the site’s usefulness isn’t all that clear. What does the site actually tell us about these doctors?

That is, the majority of the most influential doctors are popular culture figures who are largely promoting their own brand. For example, Loveline host Dr. Drew has an account with an influence ranking of 75, tying him for the No. 1 slot on the site. His tweets, such as July 14th’s “OMG watching Chasing Mummies on History Channel is making me panic and short of breath” don’t seem particularly illuminating about health, and his page mostly serves to advertise his Loveline radio show. Dr. Drew has only 1,926 tweets, but a whopping 1,932,241 followers.

CNN’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is ranked seventh on the list. His tweets seem to focus on news events (ones that CNN is covering). Lately he has been releasing messages about how the oil spill and Haiti earthquake are affecting health.

Another top Twitter Doctor is Dr. Mommy (Dr. Daisy Sutherland), the woman behind a family health Website; she is followed by well-known television hosts Dr. Weil and Dr. Oz.

Twitter Doctors updates its page hourly and currently has 1125 doctors listed. But the site seems to remain nothing more than a list — there is no easy way to search for a doctor’s name on the database, nor are there any other helpful categories that break down doctors by field.

Of course, patient confidentiality and general privacy issues may be preventing doctors from taking full advantage of Twitter. Laying off the social media grid might also be a safeguard against lawsuits related to medical practice.

But there remains plenty of room for Twitter to intersect with the world of healthcare. Perhaps one of the best examples is Henry Ford Hospital’s tweets, which range from interesting tidbits (“Michigan’s Oldest Hemophiliac Patient Turns 90”) to helpful information (“New Breast Cancer Screening Clinical Research Study”). One of their coolest recent messages? A link to this surgical robot YouTube video that shows off hospital technology.