According to a #MICEproject research report:
"Twitter 'backchannels' are increasingly popular at medical conferences. A variety of user groups, including healthcare providers and third party entities (e.g., pharmaceutical or medical device companies) use these backchannels to communicate with one another. These backchannels are unregulated and can allow third party commercial entities to exert an equal or greater amount of influence than healthcare providers. Third parties can use this influence to promote their products or services instead of sharing unbiased, evidence-based information."
Digital consultant Len Starnes says the analysis raises some "critical issues concerning the industry's apparent power to influence: should its behaviour be curbed or regulated in some way?"
The authors of the study propose six activities that medical conference organizers should consider in order to draft appropriate future guidelines:
Here are some preliminary results:
- Conference organizers should publicly state in their Twitter backchannel that third party entities should declare themselves as such in their respective Twitter profiles
- Conference organizers should insist that third parties compose tweets that disseminate scientific facts and not solicitations for products/services
- If third parties wish to solicit for a product/service, they should include an additional hashtag in the body of their tweet (e.g., #ad) to allow participants within the backchannel to filter out such tweets
- Conference organizers should encourage third parties to restrict their Twitter activity to coincide with their live "hours of operation"
- Conference organizers should task independent individuals/groups to annually measure the PageRanks for each Twitter account mentioned (@mentions) within their conference-specific hashtag
- Conference organizers should target third party accounts with abnormally high PageRanks for further education about best-practices within their respective Twitter backchannel
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