Being more social

Radiology leaders have been calling for a more visible role for radiologists in recent years to better ingrain the value of the specialty in the minds of patients and other providers. To communicate effectively, however, you have to meet your audience where they are, and that means social media.

If imaging experts aren’t active online, who will set the tone of discussion? What will be their message?

One study featured in a top story this week looked at this question with regard to discussions of CT radiation risks on Twitter. Published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center gathered more than 600 tweets from 2013 that contained both the words “CT” and “radiation” to get a sense of what people are saying.

The majority of tweets (59 percent) were either unfavorable or concerned about radiation risks. Only 3 percent framed the conversation in a positive light.

Radiation from medical imaging is certainly an important topic, and anybody familiar with radiology today knows how hard researchers are working to trim doses to their lowest possible level. To the lay person, however, the words “radiation risks” can understandably cause concern. It’s the job of medical professionals, particularly radiologists, to calm those fears and make sure no patient foregoes a scan that could help diagnose a serious ailment in an effort to avoid a miniscule risk of harm from radiation.

Education is key, but again, the person giving the information matters. In the sample of tweets collected in the NYU Langone study, hundreds of links were shared that directed readers to 99 unique articles, but one quarter of these articles were overtly unfavorable when it comes to discussing radiation risks. Many of the articles were from blogs, lay press or other non-peer-reviewed sources of medical information.

It’s time for radiologists to dive into social media to get their message across to patients. It can help the image of the specialty and, more importantly, can help patients make better decisions about care.

It also makes good business sense. One of our more popular articles from a recent edition of Health Imaging shared some tips from experts in crafting a social media marketing campaign from a radiology perspective. These strategies are definitely worth a read.

Happy tweeting!

-Evan Godt
Editor – Health Imaging