As the COVID-19 epidemic gains momentum, the call for accurate information and appropriate guidance is more important than ever. Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) are well positioned to stand above the noise, providing a reliable online knowledge base for those seeking reassurance and practical advice in the midst of public confusion.
In such a climate, the information that HCPs share with peers and the public takes on a greater level of significance. Since the start of the outbreak, CREATION.co has been tracking online HCP conversations relating to coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) acted quickly and efficiently in its ongoing attempts to present up-to-date understanding of viral spread and precautionary measures. As of March 12th, WHO’s global Twitter account remains the most retweeted account by HCPs, as it has been throughout the outbreak period, while Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus sits fourth on the list of HCPs’ most-shared accounts. As well as the global account, five WHO regional Twitter accounts feature in the Top 30 most retweeted by HCPs.
With the ease of access to global news, the spread of information is rapid. HCPs in the US were the first to share WHO reports of COVID-19, with peers from United Kingdom, Canada, Spain and Mexico joining the conversation a day later, on January 5th. By the end of January, HCPs from 109 different countries had shared COVID-19 Twitter posts from WHO.
While HCPs may see WHO as the authoritative voice for COVID-19 online information, the UN agency is not the only source of information that HCPs publicise; messaging from scientists, politicians, news and media outlets are all shared globally by HCPs. The US acts as a hub of information in the global conversation with COVID-19 posts from Dena Grayson, CDC, Ted Lieu, Helen Branswell, The New York Times, Donald Trump, New England Journal of Medicine and Bloomberg all receiving international exposure among HCPs. However, the learning relationship goes both ways: US HCPs, as well as HCPs in South America and Europe, share COVID-19 posts from Brisbane-based virologist Ian Mackay.
As the virus gained momentum around the globe, HCPs accessed information from different sources. In the early stages of the infection, Mackay seemed to be a go-to source with HCPs consistently retweeting his COVID-19 posts since the turn of the year. HCPs picked up on NEJM’s take on the virus towards the end of January but the journal received little COVID-19-related engagement in the weeks that followed. Having joined the conversation later, other accounts such as Ted Lieu, Dena Grayson, Donald Trump and BNO News have come to the fore with HCPs retweeting the quartet in March.
With a capacity to reach every part of the world with immediate effect, informational sources, including HCPs and the general public, have the opportunity to provide a global audience with either reliable news or misinformation. The healthcare community therefore, has a responsibility to use their medical expertise to disband myths, share accurate information and support others in getting to the right public health guidance. This has been their intention around COVID-19, and it is clear to see the global impact.