Social Media and Hospital Week

webb_birdThe Westmead Association “Hospital Week” 2013 runs from 7-9 August. There are many symposiums, debates and social functions that showcase some of the clinical research, innovation and expertise displayed by the professionals associated with Westmead Hospital. Symposium topics include diabetes, cannabis & cannabinoids, infectious diseases and psychiatry.

As part of the Hospital Week Research Symposium, I will be presenting a poster titled “Can social media increase the exposure of medical research and public health messages?”

ABSTRACT. Increasing the exposure of public health messages and medical research is critical. Could the use of social media provide an avenue to increased exposure of new research and improve engagement with the wider community? The aims of this study were to determine if promotion and engagement via social media influenced how online information is accessed.

A recently published paper in an online open access journal was promoted on social media platforms (e.g. Twitter and Facebook). Changes in daily page views and downloads compared to another five publications were recorded for a three week period. The publication that received the most mentions on social media platforms was also the most viewed and downloaded.

A Twitter account was set up to disseminate public health messages and engage the community and traditional media outlets. The total weekly exposure of “tweets” was measured for six months. On average, approximately 40,000 people per week received tweets with maximum exposure of almost 190,000 people in a single week. Engagement with the accounts of traditional media (e.g. radio, print, television, online) was found to be the main route to increased exposure and, subsequently, to increased access of public health information online.

The results highlight the potential for social media to increase exposure of both newly published research and public health messages. With the increasing accessibility of the community to online resources via smartphones, researchers and public health advocates must develop strategies to effectively use social media. Many people now turn to social media as a source of news and information and those in the field of public health must take advantage of these new opportunities. In particular, the ability to easily engage with traditional media outlets further increases exposure beyond online communities.

I’ve taken this opportunity to present something a little different to my usual research (almost always related to mosquito-borne disease management) in the hope of sparking a little interest in the use of social media to both spread public health messages and promote newly published research. I’m also hoping to encourage a few of my colleagues to jump into the world of Twitter too.

This poster pulls together work presented in more detail in a couple of previous blog posts on my use of social media. Could social media help beat the bite of mosquito-borne disease? and Can social media increase the exposure of newly published research?

You can download the PDF of my poster here.