For doctors: How to be a Twitter superstar in 2 easy steps and 30 minutes per day

Warning: The purpose of this article is to inspire you to use Twitter, not to scare you. There are plenty of other blog posts and newspaper articles about doctors posting pictures of body parts on Facebook and getting fired. This is not it. Social media is amazingly useful for doctors and patients if you use the tools responsibly, have common sense, and never share the 18 HIPAA identifiers online or offline with unauthorized parties. The advice below is derived from extensive personal experience. I have used social media for professional purposes, as a physician, for more than 7 years, while working at some of the leading institutions in the U.S. such as the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Chicago. My account @DrVes was ranked #6 on the list of the Most Influential People from Chicago on Twitter (selected by Chicago Tribune and My blog websites have had more than 8 million page views. Just as an example, every time I hit the "publish" button of the sites, the message reaches more than 30,000 people every single day: 17,000 RSS and email subscribers, 9,000 Twitter followers, 3,000 daily visitors, and 1,500 Facebook fans (statistics for the sites and CasesBlog, and AllergyNotes, and the Twitter accounts @DrVes and @Allergy).

This is somewhat of a typical example nowadays. There are many other physicians who are much more popular than me on social media and make the stats above look minuscule. You can be one of them. Here is how.

The basics of Twitter use for busy doctors

Most doctors are really busy. Several questions always come up when doctors consider the use of social media for professional purposes: Who has time for Twitter? What am I going to say there? To whom? And why Twitter, to begin with? What about Facebook or YouTube? My office is a mess and I always say "ehhh" when recorded -- I don't want to do video. Do I need a blog too?

Good questions. Here are the answers.

The circle of online information for me is as follows: Google Reader -> Share on Twitter -> Get feedback -> Write a blog post -> Share via RSS and Twitter -> Get feedback, go on. You don't need to use all services.

Here is how to facilitate the Rise of the ePhysican who works hand in hand with the ePatient:

1. Who has time for Twitter?

You do. Twitter should take no more 30 minutes per day and it will be beneficial for you, your colleagues and your patients. You will learn more and will feel better about it. Make it part of your normal routine - just like checking the news. In fact, Twitter is just that - checking the news - and then sharing the ones that you find most interesting with your followers. This takes a single click, and 2 seconds. Ten tweets per day, 2 seconds each. This is 20 seconds. You can do it.

2. Why Twitter?

Start on Twitter because it is quick and relatively easy. Twitter has the lowest barrier to entry among all social media services. "Being on Twitter" requires just 10 short sentences per day, with approximately 7 words each. You can reach thousands of people with a single sentence. Would you like to share the latest guidelines for food allergy? Just click and all your Twitter followers will know about them instantly. You will also get feedback to your tweets via replies and re-tweets.

3. What am I going to say on Twitter?

The answer is simple. You are an expert. There is a flood of medical news that hits the wires every day. I want to know what YOU think is important. Share the 3-10 news items per day that you find interesting. I will subscribe to read them. Many will do the same.

4. Who is going to read my tweets?

As a physician, you are an expert in your field. You provide valuable insight - just be selecting what you think it’s important from the news of the day. Embed this little personal news stream in your practice page. Your patients will appreciate the helpful updates, hand-picked by their doctor. Your colleagues may find it interesting too.

5. What about Facebook or YouTube?

Those are nice but I would start on Twitter first, and then expand if you see the need to do so. It may be a good idea to start a like/fan page on Facebook for your practice and re-post some of the tweets there. This is simple and not time-consuming. It can be done automatically.

6. Do I need a blog too?

Only you can tell if you need a blog. If you feel that you need to expand beyond 7-8 words on Twitter, by all means, start a free blog on by Google or and see how that works for you. Start on Twitter and expand to a blog as a natural extension if you need to write longer or provide some background. Post your blog items in your Twitter feed.

How to be a Twitter "star" in two easy steps

This is easy. It’s a two-step process for beginners and it takes about 30 minutes per day. The best time is just after your kids go to sleep.

1. Review the news of the day from Google Reader. I have ready-made subscription RSS bundles for you below. Alternatively, you can check a service such as for RSS feeds in your specialty.

2. Post the news items that you like best on Twitter. Don’t post all 10 tweets at once. Schedule them evenly throughout the next day. The first tweet goes on at 7:30 am EST and the last one at 8:30 pm EST. You can use Seesmic Web to schedule tweets - it is simple, free, and just works. The alternatives include HootSuite and any number of scheduling services (some of them have a limitation of up to 10 tweets per day).

This summary did no address the other Twitter activities such as listening, engaging, search, chat, HIPAA compliance, etc. They will be discussed in future articles.

RSS bundles of medical news

You can use the following RSS bundles to subscribe to medical news items. The bundles are exported from my personal Google Reader page. They update automatically several times per day. When in Google Reader, just select the ones that you find interesting and share them on Twitter. Feel free to add your own comments to some of the tweets.

Top Twitter Doctors

This is a list of the Top Twitter Doctors arranged by specialty in alphabetical order - feel free to add your own suggestions. The list is open to anybody to edit:

Related reading

What are the Downsides of Social Media for Doctors? Dr. Wes shares insights from 6 years of blogging


  1. From Dr RW: When medical research is presented in the sound bite fashion of the typical tweet it is inevitably subject to distortion

  2. In response to Dr. RW:

    "But if your objective is to drive traffic to your blog with a series of rapid fire mini posts, why not just “Tweet” on your blog? After all the blogfather himself, Instapundit, does it to great effect!"

    Great summary. I have always found your perspective valuable. You can indeed "tweet" on your blog. However, you can expand the readers and the social network effect by posting on Twitter. A lot of people who are on Twitter would not visit medical blogs regularly. In addition, blogs have lost a lot of the community feel the previously had. Comments have all but disappeared on many of them. Twitter functions as a comment system for blog posts. You can even get feedback before writing a blog post. These are just a few of the benefits of being on Twitter as a physician. In addition, you can blog entirely on Twitter - no blog needed... :)

  3. Comments from Twitter:

    @MedXChange: Great article!

    @drjohnm (John Mandrola, MD): Thx 4 such a helpful post

    @jhfrudd (James Rudd): Great post!

    @IVLINE (Aaron Sparshott): The Circle of Information & How to be a Twitter "star" in 2 easy steps

    @InpatientMed (Unlikely Hospitalist): So this is the secret...

    @allergistmommy (Sakina Bajowala, M.D): Awesome -You must give a Twitter tutorial at AAAAI!

    @rsm2800 (Robert S. Miller, MD): count me in

    @scanman (Vijay): For doctors new to (or thinking about joining) twitter

    @jackiefox12 (Jackie Fox) Good for pts. too: Check out his RSS bundles.