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Brief Communication

Translating evidence to practice in the health professions:

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a randomized trial of Twitter vs Facebook

Jacqueline Tunnecliff,1 John Weiner,2 James E Gaida,3 Jennifer L Keating,1

Prue Morgan,1 Dragan Ilic,2 Lyn Clearihan,4 David Davies,5 Sivalal Sadasivan,6

Patitapaban Mohanty, 7

Shankar Ganesh, 7

John Reynolds, 2

and Stephen Maloney 1

1Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Frankston, Australia, 2Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine,

Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Discipline of Physiotherapy and University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport

and Exercise (UCRISE), University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia, 4School of Primary Health, Monash University, Melbourne,

Australia, 5Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom, 6JC School of Medicine & Health Scien-

ces, Monash University Malaysia and 7Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, Odisha,

India

Correspondence to Associate Professor Stephen Maloney, Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, PO Box

527, Frankston, 3199, Victoria, Australia; [email protected]

Received 7 October 2015; Revised 21 April 2016; Accepted 30 April 2016

ABSTRACT

Objective: Our objective was to compare the change in research informed knowledge of health professionals

and their intended practice following exposure to research information delivered by either Twitter or Facebook.

Methods: This open label comparative design study randomized health professional clinicians to receive

“practice points” on tendinopathy management via Twitter or Facebook. Evaluated outcomes included knowl-

edge change and self-reported changes to clinical practice.

Results: Four hundred and ninety-four participants were randomized to 1 of 2 groups and 317 responders ana-

lyzed. Both groups demonstrated improvements in knowledge and reported changes to clinical practice. There

was no statistical difference between groups for the outcomes of knowledge change (P¼ .728), changes to clini- cal practice (P¼ .11) or the increased use of research information (P¼ .89). Practice points were shared more by the Twitter group (P < .001); attrition was lower in the Facebook group (P < .001).

Conclusion: Research information delivered by either Twitter or Facebook can improve clinician knowledge and

promote behavior change. No differences in these outcomes were observed between the Twitter and Facebook

groups. Brief social media posts are as effective as longer posts for improving knowledge and promoting

behavior change. Twitter may be more useful in publicizing information and Facebook for encouraging course

completion.

Key words: social media, evidence-based practice, communication, education, professional, computer-assisted instruction

INTRODUCTION

A significant gap remains between research generated healthcare

knowledge and clinical practice.1–3 Social media can rapidly link

researchers and clinicians from diverse geographical regions,

disciplines, and areas of practice; making it an ideal medium for

knowledge exchange and education. Approximately 25% of

health professionals currently use social media for obtaining

research information.4

Social media has been defined as a “collection of web-based

technologies that share a user-focused approach to design and func-

tionality, where users can actively participate in content creation

VC The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Medical Informatics Association. All rights reserved.

For Permissions, please email: [email protected]

403

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 24(2), 2017, 403–408

doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocw085

Advance Access Publication Date: 29 June 2016

Brief Communication

 

 

and editing through open collaboration between members of com-

munities of practice.”5 The use of social media in education may

lead to positive learning experiences,5,6 increases in knowledge and

skills,7–10 and changes to the clinical practices of health professio-

nals.10,11 However, there is a need for studies to evaluate the relative

effectiveness of different social media based applications.12

Two of the largest social media applications are Facebook (1.49

billion monthly active users) and Twitter (316 million monthly

active users).13,14 Both sites promote user interaction and allow

posting of text, videos, and weblinks; however, Twitter limits posts

to 140 characters. Neither site charges access costs. The popularity

and features of these sites indicate their potential application in

communicating research information and, therefore, were chosen

for investigation in this study.

OBJECTIVE

The primary objective of this study was to determine if research

information delivered by Twitter or Facebook would result in

greater changes in research informed knowledge and practices of

health professionals. The secondary aim was to compare participant

behavior and engagement with the two mediums.

METHODS

Design An open label randomized comparative design was used, with a

mixed methods approach to data collection and analysis. The Mon-

ash University Human Research Ethics committee (CF 14/1372 –

2014000640) approved the study.

Participants Health professional clinicians of any discipline (e.g., medicine, phys-

iotherapy, podiatry), geographical location, or level of expertise

(including undergraduate students), were eligible to participate.

Recruitment occurred via an email invitation distributed to clinical

affiliates and departments of Monash University, Faculty of Medi-

cine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Australia; Monash University

Malaysia; Swami Vivekanand National Institute of Rehabilitation

Training and Research, India; and the University of Southern Cali-

fornia. Professional associations representing professions registered

with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency15 were

also invited to distribute the invitation to participate via email or

their own social media sites.

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