A drive-by-tweet for health sciences


With new media on the Internet expanding in a flurry of tweets, pokes, podcasts, vlogs, and blogs, sometimes the advances are hard to keep up with.

But despite the expanding new ways (not to mention words) available to distribute information online, Emory's health communicators have waded into the storm of vocabulary and new media with an array of Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, iTunes University features, YouTube videos, and health blogs.

"At the end of the day, it's about making our patients feel they are a part of the Emory community," says Jeffrey Molter, associate vice president for health sciences communications.

The cyber realm

Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) recently partnered with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and CNN in the cyber realm. The Doctor Is In blog at ajc.com brings Emory's medical expertise to AJC readers, while CNNhealth.com features an interactive section where Emory neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta leads a team of experts to answer health-related questions. Emory oncologist Otis Brawley and Emory psychiatrist Charles Raison have joined Gupta as two of the experts on the team. One of Gupta's recent posts, for example, shared his experience of contracting the H1N1 virus while on assignment in Afghanistan.

Visitors to iTunes University can now access a range of health information from Emory, including Sound Science, a podcast that highlights cutting-edge medical research. For those interested in a new and faster approach to fighting flu, a recent podcast with Emory Vaccine Center Director Rafi Ahmed is a must. (Hint: think monoclonal antibodies.) Now it's easy to work a favorite episode of Sound Science into the party mix, between T-Pain's Buy You a Drink and Rihanna's Umbrella, of course.

YouTube has created an avenue for the WHSC to carve out a space for news of medical advancements and research among the stream of pet videos, comedic short films, and goofy montages that have always found a home on the site. On Emory Health Source on the YouTube channel, viewers can watch videos about topics like El-E, a robot that assists people with motor impairments, or click through a range of other health-related features, like Emory's use of 3-D imagery to catch breast cancer early.

Of twitters, pokes, and patients

Did you catch the analysis of health care reform by Emory's Kenneth Thorpe during the debate this summer? People who signed up for the health sciences' Twitter service did. Emory tweets about the latest in patient services and invites facebookers to write on its walls. Questions and comments range from the important (patients voicing questions about services) to the commonplace (the date of Emory's next Six Flags night).

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, the WHSC also has launched a health blog. Every story posted allows readers to share information across an array of websites to make the center's medical expertise available throughout the cyber world of social networking. A group of links (labeled "tag cloud") organize the site into an easily navigable nebula. There is even a Twitter-compatible sidebar that allows users to easily connect and share in a cacophony of tweets. The most recent news from Emory's various Twitter pages shows up at the top to entice online "birds" to follow up on the doctors instead of the other way around. —Stone Irvin


A glossary for the technically challenged

Blog (Contraction of weblog)—a website with regularly posted content, including commentary, events, graphics, or video

Blogosphere—collective term encompassing all blogs and their interconnections

Posting to the wall—when a Facebook user posts a public comment on another user’s profile

Pokes—a feature without any specific purpose that allows users to virtually poke one another

Status—a short line of text that users post to their profiles to inform friends of current thoughts, locations, or actions

Podcast—an audio file made available on the Internet

Twitter—network of profiles that allows users to follow others and be followed

Tweet—a short status update of 140 characters or less

Live-tweet—posting tweets about a subject as it is happening

Tweet-dropping—eavesdropping on someone else’s home page

Drive-by-tweet—a quick post in between tasks


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