As a platform for communication, Twitter can serve many functions. In the healthcare world, it’s unsurprising that people interested in health technology flock to this tech-based platform to share ideas and communicate with others in the health IT crowd. However, it’s not just health data analysts who are using twitter for health-related conversations; it’s patients and doctors, journalists and health entrepreneurs. Twitter has created the possibility of two-way communication between experts and novices and has helped to build global health communities. In fact, over the past 6 years, there have been over 170 million healthcare related tweets.
But how do you separate the signal from all the noise? This is a curatorial dilemma that all Twitter users face; there’s tons of data and tons of silly tweets. One option is to follow a few influential voices in the field, letting them guide you to relevant news stories, videos or trends. Another option is to search out hashtags of interest like #cutekittens or #diabetes. To this end, the consulting firm Symplur (motto: connecting the dots in healthcare social media) has come up with a useful and user-friendly way to capture the signal you want with their Healthcare Hashtag Project.
The project serves as a twitter aggregator for healthcare related topics, simplifying the search for relevant conversations on twitter, and showing trends on everything from specific diseases to healthcare conferences. Symplur clearly defines the goal of the Hashtag Project “to assist patients and providers with finding and connecting with peers and thought-leaders and start their journey into the world of healthcare social media.” If you are curious who is talking about a specific topic on twitter, #mhealth (mobile health) for example, the project will give you a list of the top influencers, a live feed of recent tweets and visualizations showing how the topic is trending overtime. One function of the project that is particularly intriguing is the ability to segment out a specific point in time and read what people were tweeting about a topic. This allows, for example, a company to see how a news item spread across Twitter and what the subsequent reaction was from the healthcare community in the week after a product launch.
Symplur is not the only company looking to create value through social media analytics. Datamnr, a New York-based startup is currently servicing financial firms and municipal and federal government entities to “transform social media streams into actionable signals.” This means extracting real time twitter information to get a jump on events that could influence the financial market or save lives in an emergency. Both Datamnr and Symplur are built around capitalizing on the Twitter phenomenon specifically and social media in general. Symplur offers a suite of tools for building a social media presence for healthcare companies or even individual physicians. And while a cynic might say the Hashtag Project exists to generate clients for Symplur, it actually does much more than that. It’s a transparent and free service that allows anyone to dive into the healthcare space on Twitter. It's a highly useful entry point to understanding conversations in social media around diseases, technologies, and innovation in health.
Posted by Noah Isaacs