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Twitter as a Lifesaver

Twitter as a LifesaverThe explosion of social networking provides medical professionals a new opportunity to educate the public on life-saving measures.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania presented two studies during a recent American Heart Association meeting on using social media to deliver and exchange cardiac arrest-information.

The researchers evaluated cardiac arrest- and resuscitation-related Tweets during a month-long period in the spring of 2011 and discovered that users frequently share information about CPR and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and discuss resuscitation topics in the news.

Researchers believe Twitter represents a new approach to disseminate information about cardiac emergency care – an important issue as cardiac illness is the number one cause of death in the U.S.

The social network platform can disseminate new information in the areas of CPR training and lifesaving interventions like therapeutic hypothermia.

“Twitter is an incredible resource for connecting and mobilizing people, and it offers users a way to receive instant feedback and information. The potential applications of social media for cardiac arrest are vast,” said Raina Merchant, M.D., M.S.

“Health care providers and advocacy groups can push information to the public about CPR training and best practices in cardiac arrest care, and participate in real-time discussions about cardiac arrest issues in the media. Twitter might even be harnessed to save lives in an emergency, by allowing bystanders who respond to cardiac arrests in public places to seek information about the location of the closest AED.”

In one of the studies, 15,324 tweets were identified that requested specific information on cardiac arrest.

  • Fourteen percent of tweets referenced cardiac arrest events, with 5 percent of those messages relating personal experiences with the condition (such as, “when I or a family member/friend had a cardiac arrest”) and 9 percent representing users sharing information relating to arrest locations and treatment interventions and guidelines.
  • Twenty-nine percent of tweets referenced CPR performance or AED use, with 23 percent of those messages involving personal stories about real-life performance of CPR or classroom training in the technique and likes/dislikes regarding CPR/AED courses.
  • Six percent of the CPR/AED-related messages referenced what the researchers termed “information sharing,” such as observations about someone giving CPR or using an AED in a public place, or commentary about the new “hands-only” CPR guidelines for bystanders.
  • Nearly 60 percent of the tweets related to health education — such as advocacy group and training events — and the sharing of cardiac arrest-related news articles about celebrities, athletes, and young adults affected by the condition.

Social networking can help providers, public health officials and health educators learn the information needs of the general public. Then, the media can be used to answer or to engage in a dialogue with information seekers.

A second study exemplified this approach as researchers found users typically asked about five questions each day over relatively consistent topics.

Among the cardiac arrest-related questions identified over the course of the study, 21 percent were queries about symptoms, risk factors, prognosis, the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack, treatment options, and the use of therapeutic hypothermia.

Thirty-nine percent of question tweets identified were related to CPR, including guidelines for its use, proper technique, details about certification classes, and accuracy of media portrayals of resuscitation.

Forty percent of queries pertained to AEDs – costs, device safety and batteries, availability, proper use and effectiveness.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

CPR photo by shutterstock.

Twitter as a Lifesaver

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Twitter as a Lifesaver. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 14 Nov 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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