But before the emergency physician steps on to his long shift and after he’s done, he’s on Twitter, usually for at least an hour a day.
“Right now, Twitter is the best way to get medical information out,” Raja told CNN Business. “Because of the fact that everybody gets a voice [on social media], it’s very easy for alarmist messages to pick up steam. We have to be constantly vigilant about trying to get that panic under control and spread a different message.”
Fighting coronavirus misinformation where it lives
“People have so many questions and they’re looking at tweets or random Instagram posts that aren’t necessarily from valid sources,” Leslie said. “My real goal was to take the messaging specifically from trusted sources and get it out to the broader community and also put it in a way that’s palatable, that’s quick nuggets of information presented in a short way.”
“[We] are all kind of talking to each other and coming up with unified messaging related to Covid-19 that’s all coming from the trusted sources that we look to, like the World Health Organization, so that whenever somebody is looking through TikTok or YouTube, we can make sure that we’re providing a unified message and getting the same information out to everybody,” Leslie said.
Doctors overcome their fear of social media
The coronavirus pandemic could accelerate a shift in the medical community toward being more comfortable and active on social media after a long period of being apprehensive about it.
Some doctors, like Raja from Mass General, had privacy and safety concerns and worried that “people might find me outside the emergency department.” Others worried about the impact it might have on their careers. “There are concerns about if my hospital is going to smack me down for posting about this or that,” said Pescatore. “But as we all become more comfortable with it, I think more and more people are engaging with it.”
On Twitter, a community known as #MedTwitter, has emerged, where medical professionals share information, discuss new research and learn from each other. Now, such communities are more critical than ever. “The best place to learn is #MedTwitter,” Raja said, who estimates that thousands of doctors are part of it.
The doctors are not alone in their online fight against coronavirus. Other health groups, including the World Health Organization, the British Red Cross, the World Economic Forum, and the IFRC are posting Covid-19 information to TikTok, collectively amassing millions of followers. These organizations also have accounts on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.
But again and again, around the world, first-hand accounts from doctors have proven to be particularly powerful in shaping how the crisis is perceived, both inside and outside the medical community.
“You might hear people saying it isn’t real. It is. You might hear people saying it isn’t bad. It is. You might hear people saying it can’t take you down. It can. I survived Ebola. I fear #COVID-19. Do your part. Stay home. Stay safe. And every day I’ll come to work for you,” Spencer tweeted.