Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

Number of Doctors and Nurses on Twitter

How many doctors and nurses are on Twitter? That was a question which Howard Luks (@hjluks) asked me today. I replied that it’s a hard number to arrive at, but I went ahead an crunched up some numbers using one of the applications build on top of Twitter’s API.

Here are the rounded numbers that I calculated as of August 18, 2010:

  • Nurses – 19,100
  • Doctors – 9.600

Now these are very rough numbers, using a pretty crude method. I used TweepSearch which is a Twitter profile search tool. I simply searched for certain keywords like ‘doctor’, ‘physician’, ‘nurse’, ‘RN’, ‘LPN’, etc. I couldn’t use ‘MD’ or ‘DO’ – results for the abbreviation for Maryland showed up too frequently, while ‘DO’ is just an all-too-common occurrence in words. Also, ‘nursing’ appeared to return a lot of the same results as ‘nurse’, so I excluded that term for conservatism. [Update: Just to emphasize – this is a crude approach, and the results may include other kinds of doctors that are not medical at all (doctorates of Philosophy etc.).]

I’m sure there are other methods and other tools build on the API, but it’s a stab. These numbers don’t include data about how active these accounts are (and I’m sure there are profiles that use the words doctor or nurse in totally goofy ways).

It’s interesting that there are twice as many nurses than doctors on Twitter according to these calculations.

It still seems like a very small number to me  – at least for 2010.

I can tell you, though, that back in 2007-2008, my best guess then was that probably only a few hundred doctors and nurses were on Twitter (and that was very liberal guess based on the searches using Track and Yahoo Pipes I built). So that the numbers are now in the 5 digits tells me that we’re definitely seeing an uptick in adoption.

There is a service called Twitter Doctors which states that it is a directory of the most influential doctors on Twitter. As of today, there were almost 1,290 doctors listed (86 pages x 15 results per page). If you’re a doctor and want to be listed, follow @Dawson. .

Given that Twitter is much simpler than Facebook, I wonder what trend we’ll see in terms of use by healthcare professionals. Mark Ryan (@RichmondDoc) raises some good questions about Twitter versus Facebook which you can read here.

I’ll continue to track. If you know of better methods and resources, let me know in the comments. You can follow our list of tweeting doctors and nurses.

So what’s your guess as to the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals on Twitter?

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocial

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