Introducing #medsm, a new unifying hashtag for the intersection of Medicine & Social Media

As you read this, you might be asking yourself why Twitter needs this new hashtag. The reason is simple: to permit anyone to follow a single unified stream of medical content.

Currently, many people use #hcsm to disseminate medical tweets, but also since it may seem to stand for “healthcare in social media”.  However the actual definition of #hcsm is “healthcare communications and social media,” really meant to discuss the practice of communication of healthcare information, not the actual healthcare information itself.

Even though #hcsm tends to be one of the most widely used healthcare hashtags and subsequently a way to get one’s tweets noticed, it can be quite difficult to filter through the #hcsm stream to find medical information, especially as Twitter grows in popularity.

Therefore, #medsm is being introduced as a new umbrella hashtag for posts related specifically to healthcare and medicine topics.  The #medsm hashtag could be include content with links to studies, stories about patient care, etc.  The more broadly it becomes used, the more likely Twitter users will be able to identify your healthcare-specific content.

Here’s an example of a great use of the #medsm hashtag, by Howard Luks (@hjluks):

I hope you’ll use #medsm and find the new hashtag helpful!

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to @hjluks, @Doctor_V, @FarrisTimimi, @RichmondDoc, @SeattleMamaDoc, @DoctorNatasha, and @drmikesevilla for their feedback and support of the idea for #medsm!


About Ryan Madanick, MD

I am a gastroenterologist who specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD. I can be followed on Twitter: @RyanMadanickMD (he/him)
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21 Responses to Introducing #medsm, a new unifying hashtag for the intersection of Medicine & Social Media

  1. Joy says:

    But medicine is such a massive topic! Doesn’t it make more sense for hashtags to be more specific, so that someone searching for information on #VitD levels does not have to sort through thousands of tweets pertaining to #Cancer or #LymeDisease or #GERD… amongst a million other medical topics? Just a thought.

    • Thanks for the thought.

      There need to be both general hashtags and specific ones. The biggest benefit of a general hashtag is that one stream can encompass anything in medicine. It is akin to a general MeSH heading in PubMed, which can be divided into more specific ones to suit one’s needs.

  2. Anne Marie Cunningham says:

    Also a little confused… So this s for tweets about medicine in general, not medicine and social meda. So why not just #med or somethng like that?

    • I thought about that. The major reasons are purely pragmatic. If you try to follow #med, lots of non-medical tweets get in there. #medsm is different enough from any other hashtag that it can be followed specifically, say in a TweetDeck or HootSuite column.

  3. Amazing idea.Doctors can now be able to reach many patients who use tweeter.They will be in a position to efficiently market their services.

    Erick Kinuthia

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  6. Ryan, I think this is a great idea. I have always felt a little funny using the #hcsm tag when NOT talking about communication. Will start using #medsm immediately.

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  9. Liz Scherer says:

    There is a huge misconception floating around folks in the healthcare arena who now consider themselves practitioners of social media: same as it ever was is acceptable. Social media changes the game and the rules of the game, meaning that those individual silos that comprise the current healthcare paradigm will no longer function properly in a space that seeks to eliminate boundaries and top down care. By creating your own hashtag to distinguish medical practitioners and the information they share, you reinforce the walls and create boundaries that are unnecessary. I’ve been well entrenched in the digital healthcare space since the early 90s and in the health 2.0 space since the moniker was created. The foundation of these efforts IS communication and that communication does not have to be exclusive. It’s time for everyone who deems him or herself a ‘SM expert’ in healthcare to step back and learn from other businesses. Want to stay relevant and fluid, evolve and change? Stop trying to separate yourselves. Ultimately, the cheese always stands alone.

    • Thanks for the comments Liz.

      With the proliferation of information at an exponential rate, those of us who attempt to read it and make sense of it (you and me included) cannot consume all of it or we risk getting overwhelmed. A hashtag is merely a way to filter information into more easily digestible aliquots. It is similar to reading the “Business” section of a newspaper, or in this day and age, a website, without having to sort through every story to find the ones you want to focus on dealing with business. A discussion of the utility of hashtags is beyond the scope of what I do. I’ll leave that to the social media experts, which I do not claim to be by any means.

      Please re-read the blog and note that the introduction #medsm does not attempt to limit who could/should post with it or read it; it merely helps to categorize tweets as related to the dissemination of medical information in social media, just like #hcsm categorizes those related to Healthcare Communications in the social media space, or #DDW12 relates to tweets emanating from Digestive Disease Week 2012.

      • I’m with Liz here, Ryan.

        We’re well aware of what hashtags are about, but I think this particular approach in fact reinforces the silo, actually limits categorization of medicine for physicians and other HCPs, and confuses medicine and social media.

        Here’s why:

        ^ Silos – If we know that Healthcare is riddled with silos, then we aught to select solutions, leveraging todays’ media, which ‘de-silo’ information, networks, ideas, communities, etc. Attempting to collate all “Medical” tweets into one tag is antithetical to the premise of taxonomy – especially “social taxonomy”. I understand what you’re attempting – but I’m arguing that it will result in the opposite results.

        ^ Limiting – A category is not a universal catch-all. It’s a tool of informational synthesis and analysis. What’s needed in noise-rich media, especially Twitter, are *more* categories which can then be collated, aggregated, filtered, and interpreted via other software (e.g. Twitter’s API). Twitter’s hashtag is a great tool for demarking topics and making them more searchable – but it’s terrible for universal, centralized aggregation.

        ^ Social Media Confusion – I know this comes off as pedantic, but picking a Medicine tag and then piggy-backing Social Media detracts from the meaning of Medicine. If you are attempting to make sense of the noise and create a sleeker filter, then en-framing the tag with ‘sm’ sets up the conditions for mis-use and confusion: you’ll have a ton of Social Media mavens using the tag and the whole stream will become an atrocious mess, replete with self-promotional dreck. The solution of healthy colloids will dilute, so to speak, with dirty saline.

        I understand you and your colleagues efforts. I do. I just think the ideas here haven’t been thought-through to consequence and execution.

        The Web centralizes some things – but mostly is decentralizes everything else.

        You can’t have it both ways: You can’t seek a central filter *and* exclude topics, ideas, people, and links that #medsm inherently asks for, *and* add social media into the equation – tagging social media narrows down what a ‘medical tweet’ means. That’s just a user-design flaw.

        @PhilBaumann, “founder” (what a goofy term) of #MDchat and #RNchat, the first clinical Twitter chats. I add this statement because after running these chats for years, I know the hopes…and, more importantly, the pitfalls.

      • Thanks for your insightful comments Phil. I have to defer to communications experts on this then, especially since I’ve only been using Twitter for a year and a half. More seasoned veterans and SoMe gurus like you and Liz have seen the successes and pitfalls as the space evolves over the years. No divisiveness was meant. Maybe I made a mistake by introducing the hashtag, but I’m an optimistic realist by nature.

  10. Phil Baumann says:


    No divisiveness interpreted.

    It’s not the hashtag per se here: this has sparked a good conversation about something much larger: the extraction of value from the vertigo of streaming data, information, signal, noise.

    (On a practical note #medsm might be a good tag for something along the lines of SoMe 101 for physicians and others. Just a thought.)

    I would refer to Brian McGowan’s work (on his site). He has raised the issue of medical students can more socially organize their knowledge.

    We’re still in the beginning – and all-inclusiveness multi-dimensionally isn’t quite possible (just think: Chinese characters are completely different from English – how would we get those characters.)

    So this conversation here isn’t really about hashtags at all. It’s about the problems (solutions) in front of us which the Web unravels every day.

  11. Twitter has a lot of grey areas. As I see it, #hcsm and #medsm are likely to continue to evolve as the multitudes of tweeters use them in various ways. While we all may have ideas on how they ought to be used, at the end of the day we all play a role in guiding our hashtag vehicles with the realization that none of us really controls them.

  12. What we need is a hashtag overlord ! I know of only one assembly or directory of medical hashtags, is a web site sponsored by The Fox Group. Failing this we could as President Obama to appoint you as the new “Social Media Czar”. We need a mechanism for applying for and obtaining official hashtags…otherwise it will be ##### vs. ####

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