May 13, 2011

Twitter 'vital' link to patients, say doctors in Japan

twitter.jpeg In the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, Twitter is proving "an excellent system" for communicating with chronically-ill patients, say doctors. The BBC reports.

In letters written to The Lancet, Japanese doctors say social networking sites have been vital in notifying patients where to get medication. Excerpts:

quotemarksright.jpgOur patients on continuous-infusion prostacyclin for pulmonary hypertension were a particular concern. Forming a supply chain for such drugs in the earliest stages of the disaster was difficult; however, we found that social networking services could have a useful role. In the aftermath of the earthquake, telephone networks were unreliable even in the metropolitan areas. However, the internet was comparatively stable and thus enabled communication by email, Skype, and Twitter.

Twitter has an excellent system for disseminating information to other participants via the “re-tweet” facility. This system facilitates rapid sharing of other participants' messages with all of one's followers, resulting in an exponential proliferation of information dispersal. We were able to notify displaced patients via Twitter on where to acquire medications. These “tweets” immediately spread through patients' networks, and consequently most could attend to their essential treatments.

Obviously, direct human assistance available in parallel with the social media was also important for patients' care. Health-care providers and medical service staff went the extra mile to collaborate and deliver oxygen and drugs. We delivered prostacyclin to one patient by helicopter. Together, these efforts ensured that all patients on prostacyclin treatment received their required medication. quotesmarksleft.jpg

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