What’s up Doc: Physician Profiles on Twitter

Posted by: in Analytics, Healthcare Insights, Healthcare Technology, MDigitalLife, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership on November 6, 2012

In the 140-character world of Twitter, your bio says a lot.  Best practices include optimizing a Twitter bio for search, as well as thinking about how the profile reflects your image or brand (especially in light of Twitter’s recent introduction of header images).  But perhaps the easiest way to determine the primary online identity or “home base” of a user is the URL they choose to include in their profile.

An overwhelming 80% of physicians include a link within their Twitter bio- a slightly larger percentage in fact, than those who clearly state their role as a health care provider.  Of these physicians, roughly 32% link to a personal website or blog.


The physicians included in this 32% are notably different from their peers:

  • They have a significantly larger follower base- an average of 35% more followers than physicians who link to their practice and an overwhelming 600% more followers than physicians who do not include a URL at all.
  • They are more likely to be followed by their peers- 53% of physicians followed by at least 20 of their peers fall into this category.
  • They are more “popular” by social definition- physicians who link to a personal blog or website are nearly 2x more likely to be Listed than all physicians and nearly 3x more likely to be Favorited.

For many time-strapped physicians included in the MDigitalLife database, content is posted on a weekly to bi-weekly cadence to the blog or website (excluding a few superstars like Kevin MD, who post daily).  Despite the lack of consistent daily content, activity on a physician’s blog or website can have a profound impact on the number of peers and patients they reach via Twitter, regardless if the blog post has been shared by the physician via Twitter or not.  In an initial study of 5 physicians included in the MDigitalLife database, physicians gain an average of 32 more followers on Twitter on days that a new article is posted to their blog.

This gives us important insight into how peers and patients identify and choose the physicians they follow and learn from online.  According to Dr. John LaPuma, “it’s great to meet someone at a conference whose thought process, links or research I admire and have discovered through a tweeted link.”  Content sharing is key to relationship maintenance on Twitter, but content creation via other  channels may be the first “nice to meet you.”  As physicians continue to use Twitter as a powerful tool to engage with patients and peers, a personal website or blog is important to fostering that initial level of trust.


MDigitalLife is a database of nearly 1,400 U.S. doctors on Twitter, matched to their NPI (National Provider Identifier number). To our knowledge, this is the only database linking doctors using the Twitter platform to an “official” data set. We’ve  captured over 400,000 tweets from those doctors over a 5-month period in 2012, allowing an unprecedented ability to scan for trending topics and relationships, broken out by specialty, gender, geographic location and dozens of other criteria.

The initial findings from this data were presented at the Mayo Clinic on October of 2012 in the form of the slide deck embedded below; it contains a full suite of statistics derived from the database itself and some high-level analysis showcasing how the data could be used.  For more information, visit MDigitalLife.com or contact Greg Matthews.

By: MeredithOwen

Meredith enjoys both the technical and creative aspects of web and social analysis.

Find me on: Twitter
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