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Can Twitter and Other Social Media Sites Help Decrease Medical Error Risk?

There are several ways that controlled studies are performed. There may be a select group of participants who meet some certain criteria who are tracked by researchers for a period of time. Another way is for participants to answer survey questions that a research team will use to come to a determination. A third way is for researchers to take data from a specific time frame and analyze that data to come up with a conclusion. However, researchers from Boston Children's Hospital came up with a somewhat unique way to track information regarding the number of medical errors that may be occurring. They used the social media site Twitter.

For those unfamiliar with the site, Twitter users add the hashtag symbol (#) attached to a word or phrase when they post a comment, referred to as a “tweet.” The hashtag helps categorize their tweets so they are easier to find if other users are searching for that particular topic. For example, someone who is looking for tweets that are about medical malpractice in Virginia may do a search for #VirginiaMalpracticeAttorney.

Many social media users utilize sites like Twitter to also voice their pleasure and displeasure with organizations and businesses. The researchers from Children’s Hospital found more than 400,000 tweets posted on the site within a 12-month period that were directed at almost 2,400 hospitals across the country. From that group, they were able to find 34,735 tweets – directed at 1,726 hospitals – by people expressing their experiences as patients.

The research team broke the tweets down into three categories – positive, negative, neutral. Categories were broken down even further, including communication, pain, and time. They also went even further to break down tweet into patient experiences and other aspects of the hospital.

When they were done with all the filtering, the study had 2,216 tweets that dealt exclusively with patient experience. In more than 1,000 of these tweets, there were phrases that indicated some type of medical error had occurred. In fact, in more than 80 percent of these tweets, the medical error was clearly stated. The breakdown of errors included diagnostic error (23 percent), medication error (23 percent), and surgical error (14 percent).

The study also found that many hospitals closely monitor their Twitter and other social media accounts and are quick to respond online to patient comments. Given the millions of people who are active on social media, one of the questions this study raises is how can it be utilized to decrease the number of medical mistakes made against patients.

If you have suffered injuries caused by some kind of medical error, contact a Virginia medical malpractice attorney to find out what legal options you may have against both the medical personnel and medical facility responsible for your injuries. Our VA injury firm has successfully represented many clients whose lives have been forever changed due to a medical error.

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