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    Clinicians can tap Twitter to air accurate acne info, research shows


    Clinicians can sift facts from fiction on diseases such as acne by checking Twitter, a letter by Boston-based Center for Connected Health researchers suggests. The letter notes that clinicians can better understand how people perceive and misconstrue diseases such as acne and can use the platform to disperse trusted medical information to so-called followers.

    For the study, researchers used a type of real-time data capture via the Twitter Streaming Application Programming Interface (API) to gather tweets that contained at least one of five particular words: pimple, pimples, zit, zits, and acne for a two-week duration in June 2012. Researchers only analyzed high-impact tweets, (tweets with one or more retweets). The team judged language and content of the high-impact tweets against the American Academy of Dermatology’s acne information website.

    There were four categories for the tweets: personal, celebrity, education, and irrelevant/excluded. For education, there were subcategories: disease question, disease information, treatment question, and treatment information (branded, non-branded and ambiguous).

    Researchers evaluated 8,192 English high-impact tweets. Personal tweets about acne were the most popular high-impact tweets (43.1 percent); next were tweets about celebrities (20.4 percent), followed by education-related tweets (27.1 percent); 9.4 percent of tweets were excluded. For the education subcategories, two-thirds of disease question tweets asserted in some way that stress causes pimples, and 9 percent of retweets commented that makeup causes pimples.

    “Twitter is emerging as a popular forum where people exchange health information. Health providers can not only learn about the perceptions and misperceptions of diseases like acne, but they might also communicate reliable medical information,” the authors wrote.

    The findings were published in the May 15 issue of JAMA Dermatology

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