Do people turn to Twitter for CPR info?

NEW YORK Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:23am IST

Related Topics

A statue of Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, is carried in a taxi to a place of worship on the first day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ganesh Chaturthi Festival

During Ganesh Chaturthi idols will be taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, and will be immersed in a river or the sea in accordance with Hindu faith.  Slideshow 

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Amid snarky comments and links to cat videos, some Twitter users turn to the social network to find and post information on cardiac arrest and CPR, according to a new study.

Over a month, researchers found 15,324 messages - known as tweets - on Twitter that included specific information about resuscitation and cardiac arrest.

"From a science standpoint, we wanted to know if we can reliably find information on a public health topic, or is (Twitter) just a place where people describe what they ate that day," said the study's lead author Dr. Raina M. Merchant.

According to the researchers, they did find some people using Twitter to send and receive a wide variety of information on CPR and cardiac arrest, including their personal experiences, questions and current events.

Merchant, an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said they were excited to find so many people talking about these topics in a meaningful way.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Resuscitation, write that some researchers and organizations already use Twitter for public health matters. Those efforts include tracking the 2009 H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic and finding the source of the 2011 Haitian cholera outbreak.

When it comes to such outbreaks, "Right now, it's mostly an educational tool for public health officials or professionals," said Dr. Gunther Eysenbach, editor and publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research and of the University Health Network in Toronto.

With more than 500 million Twitter accounts, Merchant said that understanding how tweets can be filtered may allow doctors and other healthcare providers to respond to people's questions in real time, and possibly find new ways to educate the public about health matters, including cardiac arrest and CPR.


For the new study, the researchers created a Twitter search for key terms, such as CPR, AED (automated external defibrillators), resuscitation and sudden death.

Between April and May 2011, their search returned 62,163 tweets, which were whittled down to 15,324 messages that contained specific information about cardiac arrest and resuscitation.

Only 7 percent of the tweets were about specific cardiac arrest events, such as a user saying they just saw a man being resuscitated, or a user asking for prayers for a sick family member.

About 44 percent of the tweets were about performing CPR and using an AED. Those types of tweets included information on rules about keeping AEDs in businesses and questions about how to resuscitate a person.

The rest of the tweets were about education, research and news events, such as links to articles about celebrities going into cardiac arrest.

The vast majority of the Twitter users sent fewer than three tweets about cardiac arrest or CPR throughout the month. Users that sent more tweets typically had more followers - people who subscribe to a certain person's messages - and often worked in a health care-related field.

About 13 percent of the tweets were re-sent, or retweeted, by other users. The most popular retweeted messages were about celebrity-related cardiac arrest news, such as an AED being used to revive a fan at a Lady Gaga concert.

"I think the pilot (study) illustrated for us is that there is an opportunity to potentially provide research and information for people in real time about cardiac arrest and resuscitation," said Merchant.

"I can imagine in the future we will see systems that would automatically respond to tweets of individual users," said Eysenbach, who was not involved with the new research.

He added that businesses already have systems automatically responding to tweets, and one potential would be for a piece of software to analyze a user's location to locate the nearest AED.

"Twitter is a really powerful tool, and we're just beginning to understand its abilities," Merchant told Reuters Health.

"People should join the conversation and tweet. And healthcare providers should really be part of that conversation," she said.

SOURCE: Resuscitation, online October 29, 2012.

Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ebola Outbreak




WHO urges stiff regulatory curbs on e-cigarettes.  Full Article 

Weighty Issues

Weighty Issues

More parents think their overweight child is 'about right'.  Full Article 

Cancer Drug

Cancer Drug

Pfizer to test Xalkori lung cancer drug with Merck immunotherapy.  Full Article 

Mental Health

Mental Health

Obama tells veterans better mental health care on the way.  Full Article 

Food Regulation

Food Regulation

Russian food safety regulator shuts fifth McDonald's restaurant.  Full Article 

Heinz Recall

Heinz Recall

Heinz recall brings food tracking issue to the fore in China.  Full Article 

Delaying Start

Delaying Start

Delay morning school start for teens: pediatricians.  Full Article 

Birth Control

Birth Control

U.S. moves to ensure birth control access at religious companies.  Full Article