Getting the most out of Twitter as a health care professional!

Two years ago I said that I thought Twitter was taking it too far in the online world and I seriously couldn’t see a role for it in my life…  I have changed my tune! 

One year ago I tried to use Twitter more often, but found it daunting because I wasn’t using an appropriate tool to get the most out of it.

Now I finally understand the role Twitter can play for healthcare professionals as I finally found a program to collect Tweets, organize them in topics and also found ways to share  my Tweets in other forums such as Facebook, my Blog and LinkedIn.  So now that it is part of my routine I thought I was ready to share some tips on getting started on Twitter and getting Twitter to work for you! 

Tip 1. Think about your online persona, have a reason to start Tweeting.   

Decide what you will Tweet about.  I mostly Tweet about OT, Higher Education, Online Technology, Assistive Technology and topics broadly related to these, (sometimes I stray away and Tweet about how my football team is going, maybe I could use a separate identity for that?)
My Twitter Profile
Tip 2. Create a professional profile in your Twitter account.  Choose an online identity (or name) that represents you.  I chose VirtualOT and use it for all my professional online activities.  Having a consistent online presence helps people to start forming a relationship with you, soon they start to send you information because they know your interests.  
Customize your Twitter profile to give a professional impression! a)  Write a brief, professional and relevant bio (it is ok to include some personal information, just keep it to what you would tell a patient/client in real life), b) Upload a picture or avatar that represents you professionally, and c) Customize your page’s background and colours.  You can do all of these things through the settings tool bar, then select ‘design’ for the background, ‘profile’ for your profile etc. 

Tip 3.  Learn the lingo (language).  Thanks to @enableOT for the foundation of this list on OT4OT wiki
@:  Use this to inform a person that you are directing a Tweet towards them (e.g. @VirtualOT). 
Find people:  This means “find people to follow”. 
Follow/Following:  By following someone you will see all his or her tweets on your page.  You can choose to follow anyone who allows it; sometimes you will get a message saying they need to approve you.
Hashtags #:  The hashtag is used to tag a topic.  For example in OT we use #OT. 
Profile: Customized information about you that others will see on Twitter.
Tweets:  The term given to the bite-sized messages of 140 characters you send out.  Tweets can be public, private, or even direct messages.  You can only receive direct messages from people you follow and vice versa.  Re-tweets (RT’s):  This is when a tweet is forwarded by another user.
Tweeps: People who use Twitter (sometimes also means people you met on Twitter).
Twittersphere:  The virtual world of Twitter.

Example Tweet using bitly (reduced URL)

Tip 4.  Be concise and informative.  You only have 140 characters to use for each Tweet, so be concise!  Think of Twitter as a virtual notice board with the capacity to leave notes or questions for individuals or groups about a topic.  Most health care Twitter use this forum post information, look for answers or brainstorm a problem.   Examples include looking for a resource, a supplier or to share news on funding changes for OT services.  If you need to add a website URL these can be very long.  To get around this use bitly or tinyurl to shrink the url address so it can fit in your 140 characters more easily.

Example Tweet hashtag #OT

Tip 5. Use #tags – hashtags.  Hashtags have made a huge difference to finding information on Twitter.   These are the best way to have non-followers see your tweets and for followers to notice Tweets of shared importance.  For a current list of Twitter hashtags that are of interest to OTs, see Twitter Hashtags List.  A helpful website is WTH: What the Hashtag, an editable encyclopaedia for hashtags found on Twitter.  Experiment with hashtags as they specify your interests.  You can invent your own hashtags (e.g. we created #OT4OT which is online technology for occupational therapy).

Tweetdeck helps organize top

Tip 6.  Use technology to organize your Tweets! The basic Twitter site will show you a constant feed of information from people you follow.  However there will be people in the “Twitterspehere” posting about topics you are interested in.  You need a way to collect and organize Tweets by topic.  There are a number of Apps for phones and computers to help you organize tweets by topic.  TweetDeck, HootSuite, and TweetCaster help you organize your Twitter account for your phone, desktop computer, iPad, laptop etc.  It can be daunting to work out which App to use, I have settled with Tweetdeck and am happy with its performance.  On my Tweetdeck I leave a search column open at all times for the terms #OT, #Virtual-World-OT-Day, #OccupationalTherapy, and #OT4OT.  I also use these hashtags frequently when chatting with my OT Twitter friends. 

Linking Twitter to Facebook

Tip 7. Set-up an RSS feed—Twitter is an especially powerful networking tool when combined with a blog or Facebook account.  You can set up Twitter to direct Tweets to your Facebook wall (if you want) and you can also set up a feed from Twitter to your blog.  Using these tools you will be able to post information just once and have it available in three different online forums!  Note: Another great way to get more impact from your blog is to set up Networked Blogs in Facebook to re-post blog posts on your Facebook wall.    

@enableOT created an OT list in Twitter

Tip 8. Find people to followTo find people you can use findpeople link in Twitter.  Once you follow one person, you can look to see who follows them and then click the “follow” button to add them to the list of people you follow.  There are also directories such as where you can search for people by keyword.  To find other OTs on Twitter start with @enableOTs occupational therapy list and from there you will find many other lists of OTs under areas of practice or topics of interest.  

Tip 9. Be selective about who to follow back—Once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, people will begin to follow you.  Don’t feel compelled to follow everyone back, they may even turn out to be a spam-bot or simply a person whose interests don’t align with yours. When deciding whether or not to follow-back, look at the user’s profile and see if their profile and interests match yours, read some of their recent Tweets and see if you’d like to “converse” with them.

#FollowFriday is a great tool to find OTs in Twitter

Tip 10. Make use of #FF.  Follow Friday #FF is the hashtag to help people find new Twitter friends. On Fridays “Tweeps” recommend people they think others should be following.  Take advantage of these days, follow the people your friends recommend and then re-tweet the recommendation to let the recommended know that you are now following him or her.  Apps like FollowFridayRanking help keep track of who is being recommended!

Sensory Processing Disorder: Education available online

Dr. Lincoln Bauer emailed to let me know that she is making professional development easier for OTs by putting a course about sensory processing disorder online. Visit this link to view the website.

Here’s what Lincoln wrote in her email to me:

For families with Sensory Challenged children who live too far from the right occupational therapy centers, and occupational therapists who would enjoy participating in workshops such as these, this is ground-breaking, as they can now have the benefits of working with Dr. Jean Ayres and the staff of the SPD Foundation without actually having to come to the center.

I applaud your vision and professionalism Lincoln. Your website is very clean and easy to navigate. This is the way of the future! You have translated your knowledge for others and used online technology to share this knowledge. This is the future for ongoing professional development.

Using Skype to connect real life to the theory!

Interactive online technology has opened the world to our classroom through Skype™. I can now invite guest speakers and experts into the classroom.
In one of my OT courses this year I interviewed two eminent occupational therapy authors using this approach and then watched the interviews in class with the students.
I used eCamm recorder™ to pre-record interviews on Skype™ and in addition to playing them in class I was able to upload the file to the learning management (LMS) system for repeated viewing.
My goal was to show the students the people who wrote the text, so that they might think more deeply about their words when they read the textbook, rather than view pre-reading as a “burden”. I used the interview to ask questions about expand on topics that were not included in the text.
The pre-recorded interviews provided a scaffolding of learning for the students and the disucssion in class enabled students to explore concepts more fully with the instructor. Using the interviews brought theory to life and encouraged students and educators to learn together with the invited expert.
This week I am preparing to interview an OT colleague live during class. Students will be able to directly interact with an OT, and ask her about practice in her part of the world. This will be different from last time, as I controlled the interview and played it to students, this time students will be actively involved and the session will unfold on the day. With permission of the interviewee I can record the session and load this on to the LMS for future viewing.
Using technology to enhance OT education is my passion. I wonder what other ideas people might have to bring theory and practice together through technology in the classroom?

Occupational therapy groups on facebook

There is a rapidly growing number of OT groups on Facebook, that are both serious and social. Over the next few days I’m going to find them and list them here.

This is a snapshot of what’s happening in this corner of the Web 2.0 world for our profession.

I’ll list if it is an open or closed group, I’ll also highlight student groups too. The bottom list is those groups that I believe are unprofessional.

Professional Networking Groups

American Occupational Therapy Association: open group
Collaborating and sharing ideas with other occupational therapists: open group
Darwin OT: open to Australian networks
Bored Of Fluffy Occupational Therapy: open group
Facebook Occupational Therapy Association: open group
Health, Physical Educators, Exercise Science, PT, OT, and Nurses: open interdisciplinary student networking group
Hong Kong Occupational Therapy: closed group
I’m an occupational therapist/OT student and I have something to say!: open group
I’m tired of having to explain what occupational therapy is: open group
Is OT Worthwhile?: open group
I’ve worked at St Thomas’/Guys as an OT!!!: open group
Los Angeles OT Leadership Forum: open group
Occupational Therapists (OTs) for Refugees: open group
Occupational Therapists Having External Reproductive Systems: open group
Occupational Therapy at the University of Salford: open group
Occupational Therapy: What’s in it for you?: open group
OTs are hot: open group
OT AUSTRALIA National: open group
OT AUSTRALIA QLD: open group
OT from ACTT: open group
OT Hand Party – An Occupational Perspective: open group
OT Jobs Help: open group
OT Malaysia: closed group
OT meeting space: closed group
Princess Margaret Hospital OT: open group
St.Theresa’s hospital OT: closed group
The OT Principles: open group
Top 10 Reasons to Stay Up Late with an Occupational Therapist: open group
Union Hospital OT: open group
What YOU need to know about occupational therapy: open group
Yes, I am a Occupational Therapist and no we don’t wipe bums!!: open group

Student groups:
AUT OT ’08: open group
Christ Church OT class of 2008: open group
Cumbo students OT graduating 2011: open group
Curtin OT Students: open group
Curtin students ’09: open group
Dalhousie MSc(OT) 2010: closed group
Dalhousie BSc Alumni: open group
Deakin OT Alumni: closed group
Deakin OT graduates 2007: closed
Deakin OT Grads of ’09 open group
Derby OT Students – Class of 2008: open group
Derby Uni OT students-Class of 2009: open group
Downstate OT 2010: open group
ECU OT UE Rehab Club open group
Entering Physiotherapy or OT at McMaster University in Sep. 2008? open group
First year O.T ’08: open group
1st year Wits OT 2008: open group
Future Physical/Occupational Therapist: open group
GCU OT Society: open group
LLTC ‘B’ 2008 OT!: open group
LOOKING FOR A MAJOR? NOT SURE WHAT TO DO? O.T. is the way to go!!: open group
MCG OT 2010: closed group
McGill 2008-2012 PT-OT: closed group
McGill PT & OT 2007-2011: closed group
McMaster MSc. OT Grad Class of 2009: open group
Monash OT: open group
My OT professor wants me to do what?: open group
Occupational Performance HELP!!!: open group
Occupational Therapy-OT
OT at Stockton: open group
OT CSU class of 2008: closed group
OT Class of 97: open group
OT class of 2009: open group
OT Class of 2010: open group
OT Group: open to Australian networks
OT@ECU It Started With Us!: open to Australian networks
OT@TUKS: open group
OT at LaTrobe: open
OT Students: open group
OT students in Bethlehem university closed group
OT students 2nd Year 2008: open group
O.T sTuDeNts r SpEcIaL tOO!!!!! 🙂: open group
OT Vs PT 3 – The Last Stand: open group
OT Masters Class of 2009 open group
Philly OT Event: open group
PT/OT Frosh 2008: closed group
Poly U OT: open group
Queens University OT class of ’09: open group
Sargent College OT Alumni Group: closed group
Touro OT: closed group
UCT-OT: open group
Uni of Derby OT Student and proud to be: open group
UQ graduates of 2008: open group
UEA Occupational Therapy: open group
University of Utah OT class of 2010 open group
UWO OT class of 2005: open group

Other groups related to or created by OTs
Six Degrees Of Healthcare/Medical Separation: open group
Web 2.0 for healthcare: closed group

Negative side of facebook groups that have OT in their title
OT Blokes Who Love Hitting The Piss and Not Working Much: open group
OT Booze Cruise ’08: closed group
Yeah Bitch, I’m OT: open group

Using a computer is an Activity of Daily Living (ADL)

Lane and Ziviani (1999) state that technology access become an increasingly important Activity of Daily Living however I am not certain that occupational therapists think terribly deeply about the significance of computer access in daily life. It’s probably not even a standard question in an ADL assessment!

Using the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement (CMOP-E) we can identify how pervasive the computer has become in our lives and see that assessing how, where, when and why our clients use computers is Core OT business!


How do computers impact affect? Well, we all know the frustration of a computer “crashing” or forgetting how or where you saved a precious document and so on, but we also know the joy of conquering a new program, making our first slide show, or maybe the sense of connectedness through emailing a friend or joining an online community.

Cognitive: Computer use varies in its complexity, depending on the task you are doing. Many people find computers easier to use with guidance and practice, demonstrating that accessing a computer regularly facilitates ease of use. (See “affect” above for impact of cognitive level and computer program level being mis-matched!)

Physical: The ergonomics industry (and many OTs and PTs… and optometrists) have worked out that the physical impact of the computer has seen a boom in business. Not being able to touch type, over-using a mouse and staring too long at a screen are three typical sources of over-use injuries brought about by computer use.

Occupation The CMOP delineates occupation into three main areas; Productivity, Self-care and Leisure. This Taxonomy is a guide in breaking down areas of occupation. This Taxonomy can also be a source of frustration when we think about what to put under each productivity, self-care and leisure (e.g.: is cooking productivity, self-care or leisure!? Answer: depends what you’re cooking!)

For this discussion we’ll keep it simple… Computers have changed the world! Computers enable people to participate in productivity, self-care and leisure occupations that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Computers store information (e.g.: work documents, recipes at home, photos, etc), connect people (e.g.: friends, family, support groups, work, social networking etc), provide entertainment (e.g.: games, social networking, buy tickets to a concert!), connect with databases and directories and so on.

Environment The CMOP names aspects of the environment as physical, institutional, cultural and social. All have been impacted by computers.

Our physical environments (built and natural) have changed since the advent of the computer. Computers have changed how we design and use our homes, people seek a place for their computer (or computers) that enables them to be online when they want and in a space they can spend extended periods. Wireless computer access has also meant that we can look up recipes while cooking in the kitchen, then take the computer to another room for another purpose.

In institutional environments such as the workplace, computers are the core tool used in nearly every industry, in towns and cities governments are paying for public spaces to be “connected” so that people can access their computers from almost anywhere. Our mountains have mobile towers on them and being able to access the internet using a mobile phone is fast becoming an expectation, not a dream!

Computers connected to the world wide web also enable access to new virtual communities. Virtual communities such as those in Facebook or MySpace create another social dimension for people to engage, socialize and learn from each other. Second Life is a rapidly growing community in the virtual world where you can walk and talk in the computer using an avatar to talk with other people. You can connect with special interest groups, get information on a range of topics, or simply “hang out” in a night club.

I think as OTs we need to keep in mind how to create safeguards to ensure that vulnerable people are not taken advantage of in all online communities.

Spirituality How does computer use relate to spirituality? Computers directly impact the users experience of purpose and meaning in their lives. Meaning and purpose is so often derived by the important roles we play and how we experience relationships with other people. Computers play a significant role in both these areas. Computers can enable us to achieve our potential in work and personal life. This is seen through the fact that so many people use a computer to effectively complete work tasks, to maintain links with and be involved in the lives of friends and family (email, Skype, MSN etc), to store precious memories in online photo albums, or to expand social horizons through social networking spaces or to manage personal problems in online support communities.

Engagement in the new text Enabling Occupation II (Townsend and Polatajko, 2007) ‘E’ was added to the model to depict ‘engagement’ in occupation.

Computers facilitate engagement in meaningful occupations in a range of environments. Therefore computer use is an important Activity of Daily Living and core OT business!

Lane, A., & Ziviani, J. (1999). Children’s computer access: analysis of the visual-motor demands of software designed for children. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(1), 19-25.

Townsend, E. A., & Polatajko, H. J. (2007). Enabling occupation II : advancing an occupational therapy vision for health, well-being & justice through occupation /Elizabeth A. Townsend & Helene J. Polatajko, primary authors. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.