Twitter & Health

It stands to reason that when I read the phenomenal Tweeting for Student Health Care from my favorite health blog (and 2nd favorite newspaper) I immediately thought of our Emerging Technologies Librarian, who has been curating an incredible weekly post  that focuses on the flurries of health-relevant hashtags in the Twitterverse.

Composite image from Twitter and “Open Healthcare” © 2011 by Christina Hardison for CC BY-SA 2.0

Sure – Twitter/tweets are a great way of disseminating bite-sized information (and this coming from a Twitter user quite late to jump on the bandwagon) or giving you a way to follow the breadcrumbs of evidence, like a bibliography in a relevant research paper you’ve read.

But what Arijit Guha’s (@poop_strong) experience – an Arizona State PhD student with stage IV colon cancer who had reached the University’s $300,000 lifetime insurance cap with Aetna and left with the $118,000 balance before starting a social media fundraising campaign – highlights is Twitter’s ability to do more than that, though admittedly in a small number of cases.

Access: Twitter gives anyone with a mobile (or standard) internet connection almost scarily direct access to hundreds of millions of users – many of whom would, for geographic or political reasons, would be completely unreachable otherwise. In Mr. Guha’s case, that was Aetna’s CEO, Mark T. Bertolini (@mtbert) – take a look at some of the exchanges:




You have to give Mr. Bertolini some kudos for launching into a pointed conversation. Trying to get an actual sense of the conversation on Twitter isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when so many other users started chiming in, but if you’re curious check out the tweets arranged in a way that makes sense on Storify as the conversation flowed on.

Actual Change: After heated online discussion, ASU also got in the game and is changing its student insurance coverage with the 2012 school year – including increasing the cap from $300,000 to $2 million and not denying students with preexisting conditions.

Having gleaned these things, the next logical question is “what does it mean for those of us in health?” I’m not sure that anyone has concrete answers yet, but clearly that dialogue – and what Twitter makes clear is that it is a dialogue – is starting to take shape. How will you contribute?

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