Twitter Can Provide Patient Perspective on Medical Errors, Study Shows

Jan. 14, 2016
With growing concerns about medical errors, the social media app Twitter can be used as a tool to help providers collect data and gain the patient’s perspective on medical errors, according to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

With growing concerns about medical errors, the social media app Twitter can be used as a tool to help providers collect data and gain the patient’s perspective on medical errors, according to a study published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

For the study, a research team, led by Atul Nakhasi, M.D., used Twitter’s search application program interface from January to August 2012 to identify tweets that matched a highly relevant set of phrases related to patient safety and medical errors.

The research team collected about 1,000 publicly accessible tweets in English and found that 83 percent identified the type of error. Of those, 26 percent were procedural errors, 23 percent were medication errors, 23 percent were diagnostic errors and 14 percent were surgical errors. A total of 860 (84 percent) identified a tweet source, of which 90 percent were by the patient and 9 percent by a family member.

A total of 519 tweets (52 percent) identified an emotional response. Of those, 47 percent expressed anger or frustration, 21 percent expressed humor or sarcasm and 14 percent expressed sadness or grief. An intent to pursue malpractice litigation was mentioned in 6 percent of the analyzed tweets.

Researchers concluded that Twitter can be a relevant data source to obtain the patient perspective on medical errors.

“Twitter may provide an opportunity for health systems and providers to identify and communicate with patients who have experienced a medical error. Further research is needed to assess the reliability of the data,” the researchers wrote.

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