Twitter Use Increasing at ASH and ASCO Annual Meetings

Twitter Use Increasing at ASH and ASCO Annual Meetings

Michael A. Thompson, FASCO, MD, PhD

Dec 10, 2013

I attended the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 55th Annual Meeting (officially December 7-10, 2013). It seemed like the amount of Twitter activity had increased before and during the meeting compared to prior years. I asked Audun Utengen, MBA (@Audvin), from Symplur (@Symplur) for a quick analysis. They supplied information from the ASH 2011 (#ASH11 hashtag) and ASH 2012 (#ASH12) meetings. I then looked at 1/1/13 -> Sunday 12/8/13) for #ASH13. [At the time I am writing this, note that the ASH 2013 meeting still had a day and a half remaining—Monday night, December 9, and Tuesday, December 10.]

I tweeted:

Analytics - #ASH11 /#ASH12 / #ASH13 (so far) -
Tweets: 2362 / 3013 / 6664
Tweeps: 466 / 566 / 1245
Impressions: 9.5M / 11.8M / 16M
Thanks @Audvin

So even before the 2013 meeting was completed, the number of tweets more than doubled from 2012 and the number of Twitter people (tweeps) more than doubled as well. Therefore, it isn't a few, 10, or even a hundred people tweeting, but over a thousand. Of course, some high-tweet -level individuals were present.

Interestingly, some of the top tweeters showed a good representation of areas involved in clinical care and drug development in hematology. ASH (@ash_hematology) had the top mentions. The prolific patient advocate tweeters @MyelomaTeacher and @IMFMyeloma provided a large number of tweets. Several doctors were tweeting, including: @hemedoc, @TheBloodMD, @DrMiguelPerales, and @Lymphoma_Doc. Biotechnology analysts and consultants such as @AndyBiotech, @MaverickNY, and @3NT were prominent. Pharmaceutical companies were active this year, including new Twitter feeds from @Celgene and @Celgene_Myeloma, as well as the highest “impressions” Twitter feed from @Novartis. @DanaFarber and @NIH_NHLBI also had high impression scores.


ASCO activity was looked at in the JOP didactic review of “Trends in Twitter Use by Physicians at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, 2010 and 2011,” by Aafia Chaudhry, MD (@aafiac), L. Michael Glodé, MD, FACP (@ascotwit), Matt Gillman (@captmatty), and Robert S. Miller, MD, FACP (@rsm2800).

At the ASCO 2013 Annual Meeting (#ASCO13), data from "The Social Oncology Project 2013" (by @BrianReid et al. @W2OGroup @MDigitalLife) contextualized Twitter use in society in general, medicine, and specifically in oncology. What was previously seen as the activity of “early adopter” techies on the fringe is now become an increasingly main stream component of medical meetings.

One year ago, Mike Fisch, MD , MPH (@fischMD), reviewed these concepts in the ASCO Connection blog post "Putting Twitter to Use Among Oncologists: Shared Note-Taking at National Meetings and Other Stuff." Since that time, Matthew Katz, MD (@SubAtomicDoc), has created a "Hashtag Folksonomy for Cancer Communities on Twitter” based on his participation in the breast cancer social media (#bcsm) Twitter discussion groups (chats) followed by “Health Hashtags: Successes & Challenges in Organizing Oncology Online.”He also reviewed “Annual Meeting Twitter activity in 2013: Four Professional Societies,” including #ASCO13. A great quote from that blog post that I have thought of often is: 

“Twitter may be relevant to how effective professional societies are at sharing research and the organizational mission.”

I am glad ASCO and now ASH are doing well in this regard. While there is a "movement to start evaluating blogging and tweets on par with academic publications," we aren’t there yet; but it is clear that many people are getting information from the Twitter stream before, during, and after the event, and this may serve as an amplification of medical knowledge dissemination from annual meetings. I think this is good for organizational missions and relevance, as well as for improving patient care and clinical innovation.

What do you think?


Dr. Thompson is on the Celgene MDS/AML registry advisory panel.


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Michael A. Thompson, FASCO, MD, PhD

Dec, 10 2013 11:17 AM

Now to look at "What Happens After a Healthcare Conference?"
- via   

Will we see the "Spike -> flat-line" phenomenon or will #ASH13 twitter chatter sustain farther out?

Claire Johnston

Dec, 12 2013 11:21 AM

Thank you for this post, Dr. Thompson. The volume increase makes it clear that more people are willing to contribute ideas and learn from others. It's exciting to consider novel approaches to organizing the volume of Tweets into parsable, customizable categories. Meeting hashtags are great, but the sheer volume and diversity of conversation that occurs under a specific tag can be overwhelming. Creating track-specific or disease/specialty-specific sub-hashtags or curating Twitter lists of disease-type experts are a couple of compelling methods. These are exciting times!

Giusti Raffaele

Dec, 16 2013 7:51 AM

Dear Dr Thompson, thank you for your post. I made a simple analysis with Symplur during the last ASCO Annual Meeting and I see that communication inside scientific conferences is undergoing a deep change since the arrival of social network, especially on clinical oncology where it is a very active development of new clinical trials and data diffusion.

Twitter numbers during ASCO '13 :

Impressions: 46,521,829
Tweets: 14,860
Partecipants 3,042
140 tweets / hour

Michael A. Thompson, FASCO, MD, PhD

Dec, 16 2013 9:36 AM

Giusti -

Thank you for the comments and analysis. 
Social media is not perfect, but it is as Bob Miller said a "back channel" for conversations about the meeting before, during, and after.

It is clear it amplifies the signal. One of the breakouts that Bob did in his JOP paper was look at physician twitter use and content. That takes more time and energy.  I do have data on that from a colleague for #ASH13, but I think he is going to blog on that separately. Let's just say it is a much smaller number than the ~1500 tweeps at #ASH13.

I highly suspect that we will here much more about social media at #ASCO14 including analytics.  

Can you tell us the time period analyzed? That is important for interpretting the absolute numbers as well as rates such as tweets per hour.

Thanks again for your comments. It is amazing the explosion in content sharing we are seeing.


Giusti Raffaele

Dec, 16 2013 10:05 AM

Dear Dr Thompson, I made this analysis using Symplur Social Analitics during the ASCO '13 days, from  8.00 a.m of May 31st to  20.00 p.m. of June 4th with the official registered hashtag #ASCO13. I've monitored the 2013 ECCO-ESMO Congress Tweeting this year (#ECC2013) in Amsterdam, too. I wrote a little paper on tweets activity during this congress.
Thanks a lot for your interest. Best regards Raf.

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