Three years ago, as Twitter started to become part of the pop culture lexicon, I came across a blog post describing ‘140 Health Care Uses for Twitter’ ( Looking back at that article, many of those uses − which seemed farfetched for the typically conservative healthcare industry − are now being implemented. Three specific uses stand out and are happening today:

1.       Live tweeting from medical conferences

What better way to communicate with attendees of a large meeting than Twitter? Most, if not all, participants have smartphones, and like to stay connected while away from their home or office. Live tweeting from large conferences like the annual American Heart Association meeting (@AHAMeetings) can update participants on upcoming events, opportunities for networking, and local promotions for meeting attendees. These real-time notifications enhance the meeting experience and ensure that participants maximize their opportunities for involvement.

2.       Connecting patients

Supporting patients with a particular disease is a core function of an advocacy group. Twitter can take that support one step further by connecting patients with the same disease, thereby providing additional support to everyone in their network. One example of a national advocacy group with a strong online presence is the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (@PanCAN), which has over 6000 Twitter followers. Their multiple daily tweets notify their followers of local educational or fundraising events, and support groups. Retweets, thanks to their followers, have created a community and opportunity for further connections to be made.

3.       Drug safety alerts from the FDA

Even the FDA, which has so far not released any formal guidance on social media, have eight (eight!) verified Twitter accounts. Specifically, @FDA_Drug_Alerts provides the latest drug information and notifications from the FDA, including safety alerts, recalls, approvals, podcasts, and educational opportunities. This type of dialogue is a good start for the FDA that will hopefully lead to greater clarification regarding pharma’s use of social media and online forums.

Twitter is only one piece of the social media puzzle that the healthcare industry can use to reach its customers and connect with other partners. Described are only three of the 140 (or more) ways that healthcare can capitalize on this valuable communication platform. With so many uses, pharma would be remiss not to take advantage of Twitter’s influence and ability to maximize impact with followers. So hop to it, it’s time to tweet, tweet!

Sarah Beales