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New study ties users’ tweets to medical errors

The technological advances over the past several years have been amazing for Pottsville residents to watch and experience. The computing power that used to take up the space of a room can now fit conveniently in the palm of one’s hand, and the functions of smartphones and other devices seem limitless.

Technology has played a major role in improving medical care in recent years as well. Despite these advances, many patients find themselves the victim of a medical mistake made by their medical providers.

Now, in an interesting twist, technology is helping to shed some light on these medical errors. According to a new study published in the Journal of Patient Safety, Twitter could be a meaningful way of collecting data on doctor errors. The study examined tweets made by users during 2012, and found that over 1,000 of the tweets analyzed contained key phrases relating to medical mistakes.

Almost a quarter of the errors specified in the tweets related to diagnostic errors, while about the same percentage had to deal with medication errors. Another 14 percent of the tweets mentioned a surgical error.

Researchers were further able to identify the emotional response of many who tweeted about the medical errors. A significant number of those identified expressed anger or frustration at the errors, which is not surprising given the seriousness of a medical error and the impact it can have on a person’s life.

While the researchers believed Twitter could be used to communicate better with patients, the bottom line is that individuals should understand what rights they have after a medical error. Communication is important, but individuals can hold their medical providers accountable when the medical error was the result of negligence.

Source: iHealthBeat, “Study: Twitter can provide patient perspective on medical errors,” Jan. 14, 2016