RSNA 2016: Social media and radiology are a perfect match

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 - Alexander Towbin, MD
Alexander Towbin, MD

Social media is everywhere these days, and this quick and easy method of communication is being utilized across the country in almost every industry. Alexander Towbin, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, will be helping radiologists learn how they can take advantage of social media during his presentation on Friday, Dec. 2, at RSNA 2016 titled, “Growing Your Business with Social Media, Tips and Tricks for Department and Practice.”

Towbin has embraced social media at a departmental level and uses it as a way to educate different audiences. During his presentation, he will be providing tips and tricks that can help radiologists use each social media platform to its fullest potential, helping attendees learn how to create new content and maximize the impact of each and every post.

“The general theme of what we are doing with social media is education and promotion,” Towbin said. “We are trying to promote the cool things we are doing as a department and doing that by educating people.”

Possibly the three most impactful channels of social media for radiology are Twitter, Instagram and blogs, Towbin explained, and each one focuses on a different audience.

The Twitter community of radiologists is large and exciting, with each usuer sharing their latest discoveries and asking questions. “It’s a way to interact at meetings and promote our talks or our content to provide commentary on research and what we are seeing,” Towbin said. “On Instagram, on the other hand, our target audience is medical professionals with the purpose of sharing a ‘case of the day’ type post with images taken of some disease process and try to distill it to one or more teaching points related to that disease process in the image.” Blogs, he added, are a great way to further interact and educate patients and families, acting as a medium between the two where each party can post and answer questions.

It’s a perfect fit when an image based specialty meets an image based social media platform. Posting pictures on Instagram opens the door for engaging patients from afar as well as reaching radiologists from across the country for input. In a specialty the revolves around the analysis of images, Instagram is able to share those images with possibly the largest crowd of radiologic professionals without having to contract them each individually.

The audience of Instagram is able to dip into both the patient and practitioner side, giving patients and doctors another method of communication. Patients could even share their own images and receive answers or recommendations within minutes from radiologists from around the globe. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind when thinking about the combination of Instagram and radiology; Towbin said he is excited to see just how far this relationship can grow in the coming years.

“It gives us a way to promote ourselves as physicians, practices, our expertise and engage with patients when they have questions they now have a channel to do so,” Towbin said. “We can answer them directly, send them links to information and answer frequently asked questions in mass postings.”

Social media is able to reach audiences otherwise left out if they were not physically in attendance. With the increased scale that social media is able to achieve, educating patients and professionals becomes as easy as sending a tweet or posting a picture to Instagram. This power allows presenters such as Towbin to share ideas with thousands of participants in a matter of minutes.

“Instead of sending an email the process of constructing a tweet is a fleeting thought, it’s a sentence or a bullet point,” Towbin said. “Instagram is one image with text around it and it gets to the essence of the message. What social media is doing is filling in a gap; it allows for sub conversations in meetings where, before, you had to sit whispering to the person next to you.”

For a full schedule of events at RSNA 2016, visit the association’s website.