Social networking spreads accurate and inaccurate information

April 29, 2010

Do you tweet? Do your patients? Social networking via Twitter and other means could be a way to disseminate correct information and improve behavior related to the use of antibiotics, but it also might lead to confusion or the sharing of inaccurate information, contend the authors of research recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Do you tweet? Do your patients? Social networking via Twitter and other means could be a way to disseminate correct information and improve behavior related to the use of antibiotics, but it also might lead to confusion or the sharing of inaccurate information, contend the authors of research recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Daniel Scanfeld and colleagues at Columbia University and MixedInk in New York looked at 1,000 randomly selected Twitter status updates that included the word antibiotic or antibiotics. Within these messages, the investigators looked for the terms cold, extra, flu, leftover, or share and then reviewed the messages for evidence of misuse or misunderstanding.

Cases of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics were identified in 345 messages containing the words flu and antibiotic(s), 302 messages containing the words cold and antibiotic(s), 23 messages with the words leftover and antibiotic(s), 10 messages with the words share and antibiotic(s), and seven messages with the words extra and antibiotic(s).

Further study is warranted to explore how such networks may provide a venue to identify misuse or misunderstanding of antibiotics, promote positive behavior change, disseminate valid information, and explore how such tools can be used to gather real-time health data, the authors concluded.