Amid snarky comments and links to cat videos, some Twitter users turn to
the social network to find and post information on health issues like
cardiac arrest and CPR, according to a U.S. study.
Over a month,
researchers found 15,234 messages on Twitter that included specific
information about resuscitation and cardiac arrest, said the study
published in the journal Resuscitation.
"From a science
standpoint, we wanted to know if we can reliably find information on a
public health topic, or is (Twitter) just a place where people describe
what they ate that day," said Raina Merchant, the study's lead author
and a professor at the Department of Emergency Medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania.
According to the researchers, they
found people using Twitter to send and receive a wide variety of
information on CPR and cardiac arrest, including their personal
experiences, questions and current events.
Some researchers and
organizations already use Twitter for public health matters, including
tracking the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic and finding the source of
the Haitian cholera outbreak, the researchers said.
For the study,
the researchers created a Twitter search for key terms, such as CPR,
AED (automatic external defibrillators), resuscitation and sudden death.
April and May 2011, their search returned 62,163 tweets, which were
whittled down to 15,324 messages that contained specific information
about cardiac arrest and resuscitation.
Only 7 percent of the
tweets were about specific cardiac arrest events, such as a user saying
they just saw a man being resuscitated, or a user asking for prayers for
a sick family member.
About 44 percent of the tweets were about
performing CPR and using an AED. Those types of tweets included
information on rules about keeping AEDs in businesses and questions
about how to resuscitate a person.
The rest of the tweets were
about education, research and news events, such as links to articles
about celebrities going into cardiac arrest.
The vast majority of
the Twitter users send fewer than three tweets about cardiac arrest or
CPR throughout the month. Users that sent more tweets typically had more
followers - people who subscribe to their messages - and often worked
in a health-care related field.
About 13 percent of the tweets
were re-sent, or retweeted, by other users. The most popular retweeted
messages were about celebrity-related cardiac arrest news, such as an
AED being used to revive a fan at a Lady Gaga concert.
the pilot (study) illustrated for us that there is an opportunity to
potentially provide research and information for people in real time
about cardiac arrest and resuscitation," Marchant said.
imagine in the future we will see systems that would automatically
respond to tweets of individual users. Twitter is a really powerful
tool, and we're just beginning to understand its abilities."
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012