Kaiser Permanente Release Twitter Analysis on How Physicians, Media, and Policymakers Talk About Health

2-27-2013 11-08-44 PM

Kaiser Permanente releases a comprehensive analysis of Twitter activity from more than 3,200 physicians, 458  members of Congress, and 154 journalists. The analysis found significant differences in how the three groups discuss health in the public forum.  Researchers will present the findings at a panel discussion titled “American Voices – Aligned for Health” later this week.

Physician tweets focused on direct patient engagement, or low-effort/high-risk preventative behaviors such as reminders to use sunscreen, wash hands, and exercise. Physicians generated these types of messages 67 percent more often than journalists and a staggering 483 percent more often than members of Congress.

Congress and the media, however, both focused far less on directly engaging behaviors and focused instead on health policy issues, such as insurance and reimbursement, and the business side of healthcare.

Ultimately, these results are as one would expect. Physicians engage in direct patient care, so it is natural that their tweets would address prevention and health education at higher rates.

Similarly, members of Congress and journalists are involved the legislative side of health and would be more likely to tweet content of this nature.

The researchers conclude that a disparity exists in how these key influencers discuss health in public discourse. An alternative and less troublesome theory to consider is that people tend to stick to their area of expertise when they tweet information to the general public. A politician may just not feel qualified to engage in health discussions from the same angle that a physician may. Is that really such a bad thing?

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