A study published in the Journal of Patient Safety found twitter to be a relevant data source to obtain the patient perspective on medical errors. Error-reporting systems are widely regarded as critical components to improving patient safety, yet current systems do not effectively engage patients. The authors of this study – The Potential of Twitter as a Data Source for Patient Safety. – sought to assess Twitter as a source to gather patient perspective on errors. Using publicly accessible tweets in English from any geography with highly relevant phrases, such as “doctor screwed up”, over the period of January to August 2012 the authors used criteria to independently review tweets and choose those relevant to patient safety. Of 1006 tweets analyzed, 839 (83%) identified the type of error: 26% of which were procedural errors, 23% were medication errors, 23% were diagnostic errors, and 14% were surgical errors. A total of 850 (84%) identified a tweet source, 90% of which were by the patient and 9% by a family member. A total of 519 (52%) identified an emotional response, 47% of which expressed anger or frustration, 21% expressed humor or sarcasm, and 14% expressed sadness or grief. Of the tweets, 6.3% mentioned an intent to pursue malpractice litigation. The study concludes that Twitter may provide an opportunity for health systems and providers to identify and communicate with patients who have experienced a medical error. Further research is needed to assess the reliability of the data.
Read full study: The Potential of Twitter as a Data Source for Patient Safety. Journal of Patient Safety.