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Insights Into Medical Communication

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Edited By Maurizio Gotti, Stefania Maria Maci and Michele Sala

This book analyses the subject of medical communication from a range of innovative perspectives, covering a broad spectrum of approaches and procedures that are particularly significant in this field.
In this volume, medical communication is analyzed from various viewpoints: not only from a merely linguistic angle, with a focus on the description of the genres used in medical and healthcare contexts, but also from a social and cultural standpoint, with an emphasis both on the doctor-patient relationship and on the social relevance of the other types of communicative links existing between the many communities involved in this type of interaction.
The study of some of the main fields typical of medical communication has highlighted a considerable variety of themes, data and research methods which are clearly representative of the eclectic interest in this specific domain and of the wide range of approaches developed for its investigation.
As the various chapters show, linguistic analysis proves to be highly applicable to textualizations involving multiple interactions and practices, and several kinds of participants, including different healthcare professionals, trainees and patients.
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Social Media and Professional Practice in Medical Twitter

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1.  Social media and professional practice

When I have told people that I was studying the use of Twitter by medical professionals, they have usually laughed. Twitter is often treated as a non-serious topic, because it is commonly used by celebrities and used to record mundane or trivial things. But there is also considerable media anxiety about Twitter, particularly where it intersects with serious areas of life, such as the practices of people working in fields such as medicine, social work, the military or the civil service. In this chapter, I will briefly explain why Twitter and other social media can pose problems for medical practice, show how institutional codes try to anticipate and resolve some of these issues, and draw on frameworks from discourse analysis to describe some of the issues around professional roles. The core of the study is a corpus analysis of a set of tweets from six medical professionals, using examples to show the range of different modes in which they tweet. On the basis of this analysis, I will propose that tweets by medical professionals regularly cross the usually distinct personal, professional, institutional, and public modes. But it is worth noting, here at the outset, that in my small sample, they never breach professional standards as in the occasional incidents reported in news media.

An example of these reports is a story in The Guardian (Laja 2011), ‘Trusts reveal staff abuse of social media’. A Freedom of Information query...

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