Diane at the Twitter chat

I was invited by MaineHealth to “watch” a Twitter chat recently. It was organized by the MaineHealth Learning Resource Center and was its first ever.

For those of you who don’t know, a Twitter chat is a live conversation on Twitter centered around a specific topic. In this case, since it’s American Heart month, the conversation was about heart health.

Dr. Aalberg at computer

Dr. Jeffrey Aalberg with MaineHealth Learning Resource Center Director Anita Ruff

At the appointed hour, family practitioner Dr. Jeffrey Aalberg, cardiologist Dr. Andrew Corsello and Hannaford nutritionist Kris Lindsay sat in front of their computers with lots of heart healthy tips at their fingertips. 140 characters or less, of course.

Anyone who wanted to participate had to be on Twitter and had to use the hashtag #LRCHeart.

Dr. Aalberg sent out one of the first tweets:

Dr. Aalberg tweet

Jean Gould, a program manager at the Resource Center, organized the chat, which took a lot of coordination and planning. “I spent quite a bit of time learning about how Twitter chats work,” she says, “and reached out to some individuals who had experience coordinating them. We worked as a team to come up with the content for the questions, so it was a team effort.”

The chat got underway with some important facts about heart disease.

Tweet from Dr. Aalberg

Hannaford dietitian tweet

Dr. Aalberg tweet

Soon, questions started coming in.

Tweet from Diane

Dr. Corsello tweet

Twitter question

Dr. Corsello tweet

Hannaford tweet

Dr. Allberg tweet

Tweeted question

Dr. Corsello tweet

[Tweet “Walking is a great way to build up your heart muscle. Every step counts.”]

Why a Twitter chat?

The MaineHealth Learning Resource Center is always looking for new ways to share health information. It has offered community classes for years and still does.

But as more people turn to the Internet for health information, fewer were signing up for the classes. Jean says she and her fellow health educators decided to try to reach people “where they are” — online. They have an active Facebook page, offer live online chats and, naturally, they tweet!

They did, however, have to set the doctors up with Twitter accounts before they could participate in the Twitter chat. Both were quick studies and by all accounts, their first chat was a success.

“I thought the flow of the questions and answers went well,” Jean reports. “The content experts provided great tips and information all within 140 characters! And that is hard. I was really excited about the participation we had from other Twitter users and how they engaged in the conversation. We were connecting with folks we probably otherwise wouldn’t be. What I was really excited about was, both doctors who participated really enjoyed it and thought it was a great way to communicate with people. I was very glad they had a positive experience.”

If you’re on Twitter, go to #LRCHeart and you’ll be able to see the entire chat. Will there be another?  Jean says they don’t have a firm one in the works but are thinking about possible topics for May or June. Got any ideas? Send them to me in the comment box below and I’ll pass them along.