ACEP’s annual conference, ACEP13, is just around the corner. Are you going? If so, you will see me there. If not, you’ll also see me there. If you want to.
That’s because I, along with dozens and possibly hundreds more, will be Live-Tweeting from the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle from October 14 to 17. Thousands more will be sharing information and commenting on the news coming out of #ACEP13 without leaving the comfort of their own emergency department, bus, train, elliptical machine, or couch.
Anyone with a smartphone or an Internet connection will have instant access via Twitter to the thousands of Emergency Medicine–related Tweets coming out of the conference. Sidebar: When a hashtag such as #ACEP13 appears in a Tweet, that posting gets categorized with all other posts sporting that hashtag. This way, Twitter users can read everything coming out of the convention without having to “follow” everyone who is Tweeting.
What is in a Tweet? Anything. Well, anything that can fit into 140 characters, which is approximately 30 words. New ideas, clinical tips/tricks of the trade, trends, new research data, hot controversies, and the robust and highly informed conversations about emergency medicine that emerge from participants ranging from experienced and renowned ACEP faculty to residents and even precocious students. In addition to text, Tweets can contain hyperlinks to websites, articles, podcasts, pictures, and videos.
Is Twitter a fad that will go away? Probably not, and certainly not anytime soon. On the contrary, Twitter as a platform for medical education has exploded in the past two years. In 2011, just 30 people tweeted from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine conference (#SAEM11). But last year, more than 1,700 Tweets by approximately 300 users were labeled as #ACEP12 in Denver, reaching thousands of observers around the world. Earlier this year, that number was dwarfed by the Social Media and Critical Care conference in Sydney, Australia, which has had nearly 16,000 Tweets authored by more than 1,500 participants tagged (#SMACC13) since March.
Conference hashtags come and go with the conferences they are named for. But since 2012, the ongoing continuity hashtag for the online emergency medicine education community has been #FOAMed, for Free Open-Access Meducation, the catch-all term for free online medical education blogs, podcasts, Websites, and smartphone apps, which I wrote about here in February. To date, #FOAMed has amassed nearly 50,000 Tweets.
The question most people have is, “Why bother with Twitter?”
Here are a few great reasons:
- Ever experienced Phantom Vibration Syndrome? Phantom Vibration is the name given to the phenomenon of mistakenly thinking your phone just buzzed in your pocket, causing you to pull the phone out only to discover it did not buzz. Utilize this. Instead of reading email or texts, catch up on what is happening right now in emergency medicine. Reading #FOAMed or #ACEP13 Tweets is a much better use of downtime than playing Angry Birds.
- Tweet from conferences or talks so that others who are not there can benefit from what you are learning. This is called Live-Tweeting. If you’ve ever dreamt of being a play-by-play announcer or being a reporter, this is the next best thing. Tagging your Tweets with the relevant hashtag ensures that interested readers all over the world will read what you Tweet. A well-written Tweet can quickly go viral and be re-Tweeted to tens or hundreds of thousands of people with an interest in medicine.
- Use Twitter to augment or even replace your Journal Watch. Many bright doctors share links to articles and then use the platform for informed debate. The third International Stroke Trial (IST-3) alone has been hotly discussed on Twitter for well over a year now.
- Tweet back-and-forth with other emergency medicine physicians about what is happening at #ACEP13 or other conferences, including your weekly resident conference (#EMConf). Rather than waiting until after a talk, many of us share and debate what is being presented and discussed in real time. This allows active participation both within the audience and from interested doctors around the world. Sitting in a lecture hall is passive. Tweeting allows active participation.
- Use Twitter to keep up with non-emergency medicine science, medicine, and intellectual press. The New York Times (in particular the Science Times account) has links to free articles. Atul Gawande Tweets about whatever is on his mind. Scientific American posts links to many of their articles. Virtually every media outlet from The Economist to CNN has a Twitter feed, some better curated than others.
- Network. Meet doctors from around the planet. Find new mentors and mentees so that you can gain expertise or share yours.
What do you need to do to get started? Download Twitter to your smartphone or find Twitter online. It’s all free. Make a username. Two hints on username selection: 1) use your real name, or use a handle you won’t be embarrassed about later. 2) The fewer characters in your username the better. This way people are more likely to tag you in their Tweets and engage you in conversations. Finally, follow @FOAMstarter and follow the 26 accounts that this account follows – a great list of brilliant emergency medicine minds, many of whom will be speaking at #ACEP13. You can also follow me @jeremyfaust. (I’m not on the list, but no hard feelings!)
Remember: No TWIs – that’s “Tweeting While Intoxicated.” And make sure never to violate patient privacy policies, whether they be HIPAA or the rules of your own institution.
Explore, learn, and have fun. Channel your ADD. And if you have questions, ask me or any of the other die-hard #FOAMed users. I hope to read your Tweets and see your name in lights on the large screen Twitter board in Seattle!
Dr. Faust is a second-year Emergency Medicine resident at Mount Sinai Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital in New York City. He tweets about FOAMed and classical music @jeremyfaust.