How healthcare workers use Twitter to educate about COVID-19

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Throughout the pandemic, some healthcare workers believed that the traditional media and the government's communication about the crisis did not accurately reflect the realities they face — a problem many of them have addressed by tweeting about their experiences, according to a Jan. 6 Politico report.

Twitter allows healthcare workers to communicate directly to the public, giving them a behind-the-scenes picture of how hospitals are handling COVID-19 care amid case surges and supply chain disruptions. Twitter often validates the accounts of physicians and hospital administrators by assigning them a blue checkmark, which signals a "verified" account.

Healthcare workers have taken to Twitter to talk about the death tolls they've seen, personal protective equipment shortages, burnout and the colleagues they've lost to COVID-19. They also have posted photos and videos from within hospitals, showing COVID-19 realities such as refrigerator morgue trucks and iPads lined up for virtual end-of-life visits.

"Health professionals of all kinds have been gradually emerging on Twitter, especially since 2016 when Trump made it normative to be there professionally, but this year it was like — Boom!," Esther Choo, MD, an Portland, Ore.-based emergency physician with nearly 200,000 Twitter followers, told Politico. "So many doctors consider it part of their daily duty: see patients, read articles, discuss science, look up the news, reflect on social media."

Dr. Choo also told Politico she sees healthcare workers' online exposure as a prime opportunity for them to combat COVID-19 misinformation.

 

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