Pharmacist use of social media

The most recent hat tip for alerting me that one of my articles was published goes to @redheadedpharm, who also has one of the most thoughtful pharmacist authored blogs out there IMHO.  I should note that by drawing my attention to the article, TRP does not endorse the contents nor see eye-to-eye with me regarding pharmacists, pharmacy, or social media.  And that’s ok. I have to think no rational person just wants an echo chamber.  In fact, I may revisit the whole ‘landscape of pharmacist blogs’ in a future post if I can figure out a way to do so that doesn’t involve generating the hate e-mail and widespread snark that the AJHP article did.* 

In any event, I did want to share that the article I assisted Drs. Alkhateeb and Latif with is titled Pharmacist use of social media and was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.  As you can see to the left, this is a Short Communication and essentially provides a snapshot of social media use by pharmacists in West Virginia.  The most frequently used applications in this group of surveyed pharmacists included: YouTube (74%), Wikipedia (72%), Facebook (50%), and blogs (26%). Twitter (12%) and LinkedIn (12%) were also used by the respondents.  In a sense, it was a confirmatory study in that it verified some things we thought we knew about pharmacists and social media.  Some of the findings (e.g., 50% use of Facebook) were a little surprising.  Use of Facebook, in particular was examined a little more in-depth; only 15.8% indicated they used it for any professional purpose.  Usage patterns largely reflected those of non-healthcare professionals…these pharmacists used Facebook to keep in touch with colleagues, chat, upload pictures, etc. 


*It’s interesting how ‘hate e-mail’ can be a touchstone for publication topics.  The pharmacists blog study generated a dubious top 5 level volume of hate e-mail.  It was among the best written hate e-mail (which was oddly encouraging), but didn’t come close to the level produced after our Wikipedia paper came out.  To be fair, the sheer number of Wikipedia users and the widespread coverage** it received probably contributed to its you-are-as-bad-as-the-scientists-doing-research-on-puppies outrage. 

**Curious fact, of all the interviews I’ve done about our research over the years (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC, NPR, New Scientist, etc.) the most hardcore fact-checkers were from Good Housekeeping and Fitness Magazine. Seriously.

Pimp My Poster

Like many colleges of pharmacy, ours added a seminar component years ago. The seminar has since been expanded to include a paper, a poster, and a podium presentation.  The topics range from literature-driven examinations of therapeutic controversies to original research tied to the faculty mentor’s specialty.  This year I was responsible for the recitation on the poster component.  This slide deck is what I used for that lecture.  Two particularly notable resources for me in assembling this lecture included the piece in The Scientist that inspired the name [1] and the site maintained by the Godfather of Scientific Posters: Dr. Colin Purrington [2].  If you want to dig a little deeper, here are my current favorite articles on the topic as well [3-5].  The full-text of all of these journal articles is currently available online for free.

I’ve benefitted from attending a lot of conferences over time and have seen (and continue to see) posters that are masterful creations, along with others that are absolute rubbish.  I posted the ‘Pimp My Poster’ slide deck here in hopes that it may be a resource to others, but am also keen for feedback to improve it for future iterations. 


[1]  Westly E. Pimp my poster. The Scientist 2008;22(10):22.
[2]  Purrington CB. Advice on designing scientific posters. 2009. Accessed February 2, 2011.
[3]  Erren TC, Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for a good poster presentation. PLoS Comput Biol 2007;3(5):e102.
[4]  Hamilton CW. At a glance: a stepwise approach to successful poster presentations. Chest 2008;134(2):457-9.
[5]  Wood GJ, Morrison RS. Writing abstracts and developing posters for national meetings. J Palliat Med 2011 Jan 17 [Epub ahead of print].

Analysis of pharmacist generated Twitter content

Click image to enlarge

A tweet by Katherine Chretien (@MotherinMed) that her new article on physicians & Twitter has been published in JAMA served to remind me that I forgot to blog the poster presentation of our project, “Analysis of a national sample of pharmacist generated Twitter content”  that was presented at the 45th Annual ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in December in Anaheim.  I did remember to send a tweet with a link to the image at the time (#ashpmidyear), but the rest escaped me.  The poster is the PharmTwitter project that @markhawker and I and a couple NSU students worked on and represents an earlier stage with preliminary results.  As an aside, we prepared a ‘conventional’ version of this poster for the meeting as well and then put it to a vote among the project team members as to which one to use at the conference.  The vote ended up being a tie, so we had to use a tiebreaker.

Hopefully the full results will be coming soon via a journal near you (hint: it’s won’t be JAMA).  All comments, as always, are welcome.


Medicine 2.0’11 at Stanford – Call for Abstracts

The Medicine 2.0 World Congress on Social Media and Web 2.0 in Health, Medicine, and Biomedical Sciences is one of the most valuable conferences I have ever attended.  It has been the meeting in this arena with the clearest focus on actual research and evidence for Medicine 2.0 issues and also offers the best opportunity to connect with other researchers, clinicians, e-patients, business and policy people.  In fact, the very first Medicine 2.0 Congress was where I was introduced to (and/or first met IRL) so many people who went on to become research collaborators, colleagues, and friends. 

In the spirit of that original meeting, I am excited for this year’s Medicine 2.0 at Stanford (September 16-18, 2011).  I have always appreciated the fact that Medicine 2.0 has truly been an international gathering, but am happy to see that it is coming to the United States for the first time.  I am also eager to see another first,  the one-day Stanford Summit at Medicine 2.0, which will directly precede the Medicine 2.0 Congress.  The Summit is lining up to have an incredible array of moderators and panelists.

Given the quality of the attendees and the opportunities for discussion/dissemination of your research (and networking), if you are working in this field I would strongly urge you to respond to the Call for Abstracts, Presentations, Interactive Demos, Startup Pitches and Panel Proposals for Medicine 2.0 at Stanford.  The deadline for submission is a (rapidly approaching) March 1st, 2011.  You can click on the link for the Call or start the process by watching the overview below by this year’s Conference organizer, Dr. Larry Chu.  Also, feel free to contact me with any questions and I look forward to seeing you there!


Medicine 2.0 Call for Abstracts from Larry Chu on Vimeo.

The secret of great scientists? They don’t watch TV.

I have been re-examining how to best manage my time. My goals have been to find a better way to squeeze out every last ounce of productivity from the time alotted for work (during ‘regular work hours’, nights, and weekends) as well as how to harvest even more time from my day for work (without completely destroying any hope of balance).

During my proscribed organic problem solving time, I came across a suggestion to check out The Secret Life of Scientists, which seems like something @2020science may have recommended. What a great show and idea to get people to look at science differently! The basic premise is that they show a garden variety scientist, but then they reveal their ‘secret’ life or interest as well. A couple of faves include Microbiologist/Professional Wrestler, Game Developer/Clarinetist, and Biochemist/Pageant Queen. If nothing else, you should at least check out some of the clips and ’10 Questions’ such as for Mark Siddall. Unsurprisingly, they asked this leech expert: Twilight or True Blood? His answer? “Are these movies? I don’t have TV.”

Ok, that’s not *that* unusual. I went to pharmacy school with a guy who didn’t own a television. He and his wife, a physician, thought there were better ways to spend their time. Sure, he was easily one of the top three minds of the entire class, but he totally missed out on some pop culture references during conversations! I also saw this same TV deficiency in a couple other Scientists videos like Climatologist/Juggler Gavin Schmidt who was asked: Al Roker or Willard Scott? His Answer? Who?

Perhaps I need to rethink my TV approach, in which I don’t even count watching Arsenal or Titans games because…well, that’s watching sports, not television shows. I’ll watch some TV shows telling myself it’s a way to unwind or disengage and relax. I do think there is some legitimate truth to that. However, we are still (for now) in the era where TV has replaced religion as the opiate of the masses…so perhaps I should book a brief stay in television rehab. In the meantime, I am going to go finish another manuscript and wonder if I could finish twice that many in the same time were I sans television.


The Beauty of Data Visualization

If you’re not familiar with the website for TED (Technology, Education, and Design) Talks, you are missing out on a great resource that also happens to be free.  Suffice to say for now that the TED events are expensive ($6000), exclusive (fill out an application just to be eligible to pay the 6K), and according to attendees – well worth it.  Fortunately, the Powers That Be at TED decided back in 2007 that if they were really about “Ideas Worth Spreading” then they probably should unshackle them.  For anyone who has to teach or present, these talks represent a mini-master class in communicating in the one-to-many model.  For those looking to see content experts, there are plenty of those.  And for futurists, think-tank wannabes, and people sincerely looking to be inspired to create change – TED has those talks in spades as well.

I recently viewed a TED talk by data journalist David McCandless on The Beauty of Data Visualization.  I decided to watch the video because we’ve been dabbling with data visualization for displaying some of our research findings.  Employing data visualization techniques appears to be growing trend in informatics as one way to help process the unprecedented volume of data that can be accumulated in a relatively short time. 

It turns out McCandless also wrote the book The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, which a student had given to me earlier this year (Köszönöm!).  The technique is akin to a visual version of performing a content analysis to find what themes emerge in qualitative research.   In that way it can also act as its own information filter, detect patterns that are not readily apparent, give context to potentially misleading ‘facts’, and prompt further lines of inquiry.  This book has a little more modern, pop-science feel than the more precise works by Tufte, but definitely prompted me to think about things a bit differently…and that is a pretty big value itself.

The TED video was quite good and had some clever bits such as the examination of military budgets by raw numbers versus as a percentage of GDP, followed by the number of soldiers by country and then per 100,000 people.  It’s a little specialized, but if you’re interested in the topic – it is a treat.


Wikipedia isn’t good enough for anybody except nurses?

The verdict is in.  The quality of health information in Wikipedia is inadequate as a sole source for pharmacists [1], medical students [2], dentists [3], and patients [4].  However, it is good enough for use by nursing students [5]…well, sort of.

Determinations about adequacy are based on studies which evaluated the freely editable, online encyclopedia based on characteristics such as reliability, scope, and accuracy.  A clear consensus has emerged from that body of literature collectively rendering a decision that Wikipedia is not a suitable resource for high level consultation or citation.  The use (and citation in particular) of Wikipedia by healthcare students and professionals seems to irk practitioners and educators moreso when there are high quality alternatives, suggesting the perception that citing Wikipedia in those cases simply reflects a lack of awareness and laziness.  To be fair, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been unwavering in his stance that no encyclopedia should be used as a reference source for college level work or above. 

All of this leads to the most recent paper on this topic in Nurse Education Today [5].  It, too, is an assessment of health-related entries in Wikipedia.  However, it is notable for two reasons.  First, it differs from almost all the other articles in that it uses a methodology driven by compiling and analyzing the citations from Wikipedia entries rather than the content itself.  Second, the difference in language between the abstract and conclusion is fascinating.  The abstract closes with:

The quality of the evidence taken obtained from the 2500 plus references from over 50 Wikipedia pages was of sufficiently sound quality to suggest that, for health related entries, Wikipedia is appropriate for use by nursing students

Whereas the conclusion of the article is:

Whilst it is acknowledged that Wikipedia citations should be treated with some caution, the results of this modest study suggest that Wikipedia does have a role to play as a source of health related evidence for use by nursing students.

While this type of journal article ‘abstract-text dissonance’ is not completely rare [6,7] it is exacerbated here due to this article’s findings conflicting with every other study on the topic – at least based the abstract.  It also magnifies the problems that can occur when people draw conclusions based on only reading an abstract.  This has long been an issue for busy clinicians desperately trying to stay current.  However, today biomedical journal abstracts are easily accessible by anyone via PubMed (but the full-text usually remains shrouded by subscription access).  Dissemination of these abstracts is even more rapid, sometimes occurring real-time through tools like Twitter, Facebook, and email.  As healthcare professionals, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of taking a shortcut and assuming skimming an abstract will allow us to critically evaluate a study.  The onus is also on us to help educate aspiring e-patients avoid these same missteps.

Overall, it’s quite possible that the contribution made by the Haigh article may be more significant as a teaching tool than as a piece of the research puzzle regarding the quality of Wikipedia.


P.S.  If you have gotten this far, it means you have not fallen prey to a similar phenomena with blog post titles – kudos!

[1] Clauson KA, Polen HH, Boulos MN, Dzenowagis JH. Scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information in Wikipedia. Ann Pharmacother. 2008 Dec;42(12):1814-21.
[2] Pender MP, Lasserre KE, Del Mar C, Kruesi L, Anuradha S. Is Wikipedia unsuitable as a clinical information resource for medical students? Med Teach. 2009 Dec;31(12):1095-6.
[3] Stillman-Lowe C. Wikipedia comes second. Br Dent J. 2008 Nov 22;205(10):525.
[4] Leithner A, Maurer-Ertl W, Glehr M, Friesenbichler J, Leithner K, Windhager R. Wikipedia and osteosarcoma: a trustworthy patients’ information? J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2010 Jul-Aug;17(4):373-4.
[5] Haigh CA. Wikipedia as an evidence source for nursing and healthcare students. Nurse Educ Today. 2010 Jun 19. [Epub ahead of print]
[6] Ward LG, Kendrach MG, Price SO. Accuracy of abstracts for original research articles in pharmacy journals. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 Jul-Aug;38(7-8):1173-7.
[7] Pitkin RM, Branagan MA, Burmeister LF. Accuracy of data in abstracts of published research articles. JAMA. 1999 Mar 24-31;281(12):1110-1.

Neuroenhancer Use in Poker Players

This project is outside my normal research track, which is why I sought out several collaborators whose expertise encompasses cognition, cosmetic psychopharmacology, statistics, and poker. The idea for this research dates backs to conversations at the Bellagio poker tables several years ago. Some poker players were discussing prescription drugs that they had tried in order to help them concentrate or stay awake for marathon sessions. Later, there were anecdotes about using meds to enhance performance on some poker themed podcasts. ‘Name’ poker professionals like Paul Phillips, Gavin Smith, and Mike Matusow talked about the benefits of drugs like Adderall, Provigil, and Ritalin in poker and popular media sources as well.

At the same time we were putting together this project, a piece was published in Nature on the use of cognition enhancing drugs in scientists and researchers [1]. Several really interesting articles exploring the bioethics surrounding the issue were also published prior to and directly after this period of time [2-6]. Meanwhile, we had proceeded in developing our survey to assess the use of cognitive and performance enhancing medications (CPEMs), dietary supplements, and other substances by poker players for improvement of their game.

We returned to Las Vegas for the pilot administration, which yielded some great suggestions for improving our survey tool. We had largely designed the medications and substances we asked about in the survey tool based on pharmacology, indications, and previous literature on neuroenhancers. However, some of the poker players who helped us insisted we had to add a handful of items like marijuana, alcohol, and, hydrocodone to our list of items we asked about. In retrospect this was crucial as those substances were among the most frequently reported taken as CPEMs by survey respondents.

We recently presented preliminary results at the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists Annual Meeting and expanded results as part of the Research Division of Pharmacy Socioeconomic Initiatives at Nova Southeastern University. The slide deck of those expanded results is available on Slideshare, which can be accessed by clicking on the image above or here. Full results will be available in the coming manuscript.


[1] Maher B. Poll results: look who’s doping. Nature 2008;452(7188):674-5.
[2] Farah MJ, Illes J, Cook-Deegan R, Gardner H, Kandel E, King P, Parens E, Sahakian B, Wolpe PR. Neurocognitive enhancement: what can we do and what should we do? Nat Rev Neurosci 2004;5(5):421-5.
[3] Chatterjee A. Cosmetic neurology: the controversy over enhancing movement, mentation, and mood. Neurology 2004;63(6):968-74.
[4] Chatterjee A. Is it acceptable for people to take methylphenidate to enhance performance? No. BMJ 2009;338:b1956.
[5] Harris J. Is it acceptable for people to take methylphenidate to enhance performance? Yes. BMJ 2009;338:b1955.
[6] Cerullo M. Cosmetic psychopharmacology and the President’s Council on Bioethics. Perspect Biol Med 2006;49(4):515-23.