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Twitter tweet chats on the examining table: #hpm

September 22, 2010

Today it’s #hpm (hospice palliative medicine) under examination.

Earlier this year hospice and palliative medicine physician Christian Sinclair and his colleagues realized that the conference hashtag #AAHPM (American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine) would not be appropriate for all sharing of hpm-related information on Twitter. Thus the hashtag #hpm was born. Subsequently in July, Christian decided to initiate a weekly hpm chat on Wednesdays at 8 pm EST.

With the help of Twitter chats along with other social media tools, hpm hopes to encourage discussion about palliative medicine amongst healthcare professionals and non-medical people alike as well as raise awareness about this important medical discipline and end-of-life issues. Christian admits that “it can at times be challenging to ask questions that engage both groups.” But his opening question of the inaugural hpm chat, “Why are you all here tonight doing a Tweet chat? What do you hope to gain/learn/influence?” sure got people talking.

Christian SinclairI caught up with Christian to ask him about hpm and the benefits of participating in Twitter chats.

On July 14th, 2010 you posted a tweet announcing the inaugural hpm chat that was to take place a mere 24 hours later. The response was quite astounding. Were you surprised?

Christian Sinclair: Yes, I was surprised at the number of people who came out. But social media can act much faster than you might expect.

I intentionally posted the tweet on the same day as the CAPC (Center to Advance Palliative Care) social media audio conference so participants using Twitter would see other advocates of palliative medicine online. Lots of different organizations and key leaders like Steve Smith, CEO of the AAHPM, came out to see what it was all about.

It’s only two months, but what has hpm achieved so far?

CS: We have a core group of people that come out almost every week and with that consistency we have started to get a core group of occasional attendees. It’s been nice to see that even with a small group we have grabbed the attention of people with many more followers who re-tweet about palliative medicine to a much broader audience. And we have seen a growth in the number of followers for the core group as well. I notice my follower count tends to go up in the 24 hours post Twitter chat for #hpm or #hcsm.

What are your objectives for hpm?

CS: I would love to see more organizational involvement. So many hospices are online but are only broadcasting on Twitter. I would like hpm to continue to grow as a hub for good up-to-date hospice and palliative medicine related information and sharing. With regular hpm Twitter chats, I hope the group grows larger and becomes more effective at spreading information online.

I would also like to see some more leaders in our field using social media tools to augment the great research and opinion pieces they contribute.

For you as a physician, what are the benefits of participating in health-related Twitter chats such as hpm?

CS: I think health-related Twitter chats offer physicians a place to share good information that we find relevant to our field. We don’t have to post about our patients, our day, our families. We can maintain privacy – both our own and our patients’– but by tweeting, sharing and participating in social media we can find a community of like-minded people. For me the sharing via Twitter is especially important because it helps decrease the frequency of people asking “what is palliative care?”

What do you think? Can Twitter help raise awareness about medical disciplines and healthcare issues?

This Twitter chat series also appears on doc2doc blogs.

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