Twitter: A Tool to Detect Medical Errors?


at symbol 083Social media has permeated every aspect of our life and has increased the speed at which information is disseminated.  News travels fast via social media, and it is exactly this lightning speed that could help hospitals and local health authorities identify medical or surgical errors in their midst. A new study published recently finds that the use of Twitter could actually help authorities collect significant data about medical errors occurring in their neighborhood, and also provide them the tools to help reduce the incidence of such errors in the future.

The study was published in the Journal of Patient Safety, and reports that investigators analyzed more than 1,000 tweets containing certain key phrases related to medical errors. Tweets including words like “doctor screwed up” were analyzed, and investigators found that 83% of the tweets clearly specified the type of medical error that occurred. About 23% of the tweets involved medication errors and diagnostic errors each, while 14% involved surgical errors.   90% of the tweets were posted by patients who suffered these errors.

In more than 50% of the cases, the tweets clearly expressed the frustration of the patient at the injury caused as a result of the error. More interestingly, in 6% of the cases, the patients clearly indicated in their tweets that they intended to file a medical malpractice claim to recover damages.

The relationship between healthcare and the use of social media has been investigated several other times.  One study published last year found that social media could provide valuable information to measure the way patients perceive the quality of the care that they receive. In that study, researchers were looking to see whether they could supplement their existing patient care surveys with social media tools like Twitter. They wanted to understand whether they could capture real-time data on Twitter to determine patient perception of hospital care. The researchers found that patients do communicate their health issues and medical concerns on social media, and that this could provide valuable information for healthcare providers looking to better their services.

The Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy have their own social media presence.  You can follow the firm via Facebook.  The attorneys at our firm represent persons injured as a result of medical negligence across Indiana.