Getting started on Twitter


  • Either visit or download the app on your phone or tablet. The interface is similar on each. The official app is convenient, and is worth downloading when prompted.
  • Choose the sign-up option and provide your details. You will need to give either a valid phone number or email, in order to receive a confirmation code and this is a normal procedure, often an email is better.
  • It’s generally fine to give your real name, but you do not have to. The system will suggest a @username (Twitter handle) based on the details you give it; but these tend to be of the generic “@JohnDoe12458” type, and it is better to invent your own.
  • Similarly, you don’t have to fill in your profile or photo right away, but it will help to distinguish you from the mass of other new users if you do.
  • The sign-up process suggests a number of contacts to follow, based on your own contacts plus some sample “popular accounts” and it is fine to bypass this stage, which can often clutter your feed.


Part 1: An Introduction to Twitter for Medicine


Originally published as a blog here and reproduced for the NEICS with thanks to both @stevemathieu75 and @avkwong.


“If you want to know how we practiced medicine 5 years ago, read a textbook.
If you want to know how we practiced medicine 2 years ago, read a journal.
If you want to know how we practice medicine now, go to a (good) conference.
If you want to know how we will practice medicine in the future, listen in the hallways and use FOAM”

From International EM Education Efforts & E-Learning by Joe Lex 2011


The growth of social media for medical CPD has been astronomical over recent years. More and more healthcare professionals are taking to Twitter to share useful papers and educational resources. The emphasis on encouraging Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) is embedded throughout these interactions. We have no intention of reinventing the wheel with this one, but have tried to combine the wealth of information already out there with a few of our own experiences. Hopefully this will help newcomers to Twitter, and perhaps persuade those still resisting to come on board.


What is Twitter?

  • Online social networking/micro-blogging platform enabling users to send and read text-based messages (‘tweets’).
  • Limited to 140 characters [It’s not long!].
  • Photos can be tweeted.
  • You only read tweets of people you follow.
  • Anyone can follow you, although you can block them if you wish.


Benefits of Twitter

  • Global conversation with like-minded individuals interested in the latest medical practice and literature.
  • It’s acceptable just to watch if you prefer.
  • Follow conferences even if you are not there.
  • Social networking and friendships develop and can be consolidated at conferences, with colleagues across the globe.


What does it mean to follow someone on Twitter?

This means that you’ve chosen to subscribe to their Twitter updates. You can unfollow them at any time. Similarly, anyone is able to follow you. If you decide that you do not wish for them to do this, you can always ‘block’ them. You can easily see who is following you.


Who should I follow?

Have a look at someone you know, who is already using Twitter for medical education purposes, and look at their list of people they are following. You will quickly learn to recognise the Twitter characters who are reliable and useful, and after a period of Twitter interaction, you should start building up your own following


What’s @ and # all about?

@TwitterID directs your message to that person. You can add other names if you want to send to multiple, but beware the character limit. If ‘@’ appears at the start of the tweet it will go to that person AND anyone who is following both you and them. If ‘@’ appears later in the tweet, it will go to that person and ALL of your followers. To illustrate this, if you send the following tweet ‘@avkwong this blog is rubbish’ – Dr Wong will receive this message and anyone that is following both of us. If you send ‘This blog is rubbish @avkwong’ or ‘This blog by @avkwong is rubbish’ – Dr Wong will receive this message and also ALL of your followers!

A Direct Message (DM) This is a private message and visible only to you.  # (hashtag) is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. Anyone can make a hashtag at any time, simply by typing a phrase of the form ‘#topic’ in a tweet (again no spaces). This creates a page specific to that hashtag and whenever someone tweets and includes this hashtag, it will be visible on this page as well as to anyone who follows them. Many hashtags have already been created, and medical conferences will advertise the ones they are using e.g. #neicsspring16, #isicem15 (International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine 2015), #ICSSOA2015 (State of the Art Meeting, ICS 2015) and #smaccDUB (Social Media and Critical Care Conference 2016). The days of writing notes at conferences (if you did in the first place) have also gone if the conference is well covered by avid Twitter users. Photos of conference slides, posters and equipment at trade exhibitions can also be tweeted and shared.


What’s Twitter not so good for?

Apart from your social life, it is not a great platform for having extensive discussion and debate. This often is difficult to fit in 140 characters, and results in huge number of tweets about one topic, and the context of these key messages can often be lost in translation.


A word of caution with using Twitter

You should comply with the General Medical Council (UK)’s ‘Good Medical Practice’ ( or equivalent in your country, and it is worth having a look at the brief GMC regulations (


In summary

  • Register at
  • Install the App on your mobile device(s)
  • Follow users (@) and hashtags (#)
  • No, you DO NOT have to contribute
  • It is OK to watch


A few suggestions of who to follow to get you started….


Also, take a look at the list of individuals or organisations that someone else is following and pick out your favourites.


Part 2: Beyond the Basics - CPD Records


The world of medical education is changing.  Gone are the days of textbook learning.  Medical developments and practice are evolving so quickly that print as a medium is becoming obsolete.  So you’ve read the first part of the guide and are really enjoying the newfound source of information and education.  You’ve even started communicating and engaging in lively discussions with colleagues from all corners of the globe.

You now need to convince your colleague/ manager/organisation of its value. Despite the social media label, this is far from being a plaything, and is actually educational and relevant.  The fact that it is fully electronic makes compilation of evidence and/or records possible.  As part of the appraisal and revalidation process, doctors and other healthcare professionals must now provide evidence that they are keeping up with the latest medical developments.  The GMC UK has defined five domains in the Duties of a Good Doctor document


In this section we suggest a few ways of expanding the use of Twitter to support continual professional development beyond a simple reading list and conversation tool.


Journal Alert: the “ex-” Printed Press

We are expected to keep up-to-date, and reading journals has traditionally formed a large part of it.  The more diligent amongst us may keep a record of the articles that we read.  Some publications also have a short quiz accompanying the article in order to test understanding and act as proof that the article has indeed been read.

The Internet has revolutionised the spread of information.  Traditional medical journals are now available online in addition to their printed forms.  The use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices is now common in the medical workplace.  For the reader, articles can be downloaded and read whenever convenient.  Such is the impact of social media, journals and professional societies/ organisations now have their own Twitter accounts (Figure 1).  By following these accounts, you can access the articles immediately, and some of the latest articles are available online even before the printed edition. Greener colleagues amongst us would also welcome the paperless option.  The digital format means you can easily generate an electronic record of your activity.  As evidence for keeping up-to-date, this is more credible and permanent than a written record.



 Figure 1: JAMA Twitter page


The Conference Hashtag

From our initial guide, you've managed to follow the conference.  At 2014’s ESICM LIVES congress, results of five major ICM trials were presented and discussed on Twitter by colleagues across the world.  The use of social media at medical conferences has been increasing.  Most major conference organisers have dedicated hashtags which are promoted to encourage delegates (and indeed non-delegates) to engage with colleagues and presenters.  The upcoming NEICS spring meeting in 2016 has the hashtag #neicsspring16, whereas Social Media and Critical Care #smaccDUB, and the ICS State of the Art Conference in London is #ICSSOA2015.

It's now time to put it all together as your record of the conference.  You might want to share your notes with colleagues within the department.  The organisers have even written a blog of the day to add to the myriad of tweets by delegates.  You could use a pen and paper, but given that all of this is online and digital, there can be an easier way to compile this information.

The search function on Twitter can be used to produce a list of tweets with the appropriate hashtag.  The Symplur website ( allows you to find relevant healthcare conference hashtags in your field of expertise.  Most of us already use word-processing software to compile our notes.  It is then a simple matter of reviewing the tweets, cutting/pasting and formatting.  It does require a certain degree of discipline to look through the list of tweets, but it does provide insight from multiple delegates.  Appraising the presentation/publication is immediate and of obvious value when compiling such notes.  You no longer have to wait for next month’s issue to read the correspondence section.

We have no doubt that as technology evolves methods of compiling notes will evolve.  Last year’s ESICM LIVES conference app had a note section, recorder function, etc. in addition to conference planning tools.  It was a 1.0 form but a clear indication of future direction.  Mobile apps for conferences are becoming a common occurrence – download them and see what you think.


Maintaining a CPD Diary

Electronic logbooks are common across a variety of specialties.  These include simple procedural logbooks to more detailed diaries of meeting activities, teaching activities, courses and conferences.  The Royal College of Anaesthetists in the UK has an online CPD diary for members who use their educational portal.

Cloud-based storage allows access to these regardless of location and device, provided there is online access.  The record can be updated from your conference laptop or tablet device on the journey back home.

As an example, after your attendance at a conference, the following could form part of your appraisal portfolio:

• Conference attendance certificate

• Conference handbook

• List of tweets contributed which may include analysis of retweets

• Notes compiled from various online sources  – tweets, blogs, and article references


Apps at Your Service

In addition to an Internet browser and word processor, there is a myriad of tools/apps to help you work more efficiently/smartly.


1. Cloud Storage

From tablets to smartphones, netbooks to desktops, we’re using more devices on a daily basis than ever before, and toggling files between each of these devices can be cumbersome and complex.  Not so with online storage services.  You can access your account from any Internet connection, whether you're on a mobile browser or your work computer.  Other advantages include:

• Syncing – all files automatically updated across your devices

• Sharing/collaboration

• Recovery/back-up

Cloud services include iCloud (, Dropbox ( and GoogleDrive (


2. Online Organisers

Being an organised professional, we are sure that you already have your own way of organising your digital resources and files.  Software such as Evernote ( works on a variety of devices and complements the benefits of cloud storage.


3. 3rd Party Twitter Tools

There is nothing wrong with the official Twitter app or website.  However, apps such as Tweetdeck ( (Figure 2)) allow a greater degree of flexibility and an enhanced experience.  Features include the ability to view multiple accounts at the same time and a dedicated column for each hashtag (especially useful during conferences).


Figure 2: Screenshot of Tweetdeck


 We hope you have found this article useful, see you out there on the Twittersphere!


Part 3: Instructional Videos


If you are more of a visual leaner, please find a number of linked instructional videos courtesy of @EM_Educator for your viewing pleasure!

1) Getting started with Twitter

2) Twitter Basics

3) The Twitter App

4) Tweeting & Hashtagging

Wednesday the 27th - -

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