Published online Sep 18, 2019. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v10.i9.327
Peer-review started: March 28, 2019
First decision: July 30, 2019
Revised: August 11, 2019
Accepted: September 4, 2019
Article in press: September 5, 2019
Published online: September 18, 2019
Social media has been credited with the potential to transform medicine, and Twitter was recently named “an essential tool” for the academic surgeon. Despite this, peer-to-peer and educational influence on social media has not been studied within orthopaedic surgery. This knowledge is important to identify who is controlling the conversation about orthopaedics to the public. We hypothesized that the plurality of top influencers would be sports medicine surgeons, that social media influence would not be disconnected from academic productivity, and that some of the top social media influencers in orthopaedic surgery would not be orthopaedic surgeons.
To identify the top 100 social media influencers within orthopaedics, characterize who they are, and relate their social media influence to academic influence.
Twitter influence scores for the topic “orthopaedics” were collected in July 2018 using Right Relevance software. The accounts with the top influence scores were linked to individual names, and the account owners were characterized with respect to specialty, subspecialty, practice setting, location, board certification, and academic Hirsch index (h-index).
Seventy-eight percent of top influencers were orthopaedic surgeons. The most common locations included California (13%), Florida (8%), New York (7%), United Kingdom (7%), Colorado (6%), and Minnesota (6%). The mean academic h-index of the top influencers (n = 79) was 13.67 ± 4.12 (mean ± 95%CI) and median 7 (range 1-89) (median reported h-index of academic orthopaedic faculty is 5 and orthopaedic chairpersons is 13). Of the 78 orthopaedic surgeons, the most common subspecialties were sports medicine (54%), hand and upper extremity (18%), and spine (8%). Most influencers worked in private practice (53%), followed by academics (17%), privademics (14%), and hospital-based (9%). All eligible orthopaedic surgeons with publicly-verifiable board certification statuses were board-certified (n = 74).
The top orthopaedic social media influencers on Twitter were predominantly board-certified, sports-medicine subspecialists working in private practice in the United States. Social media influence was highly concordant with academic productivity as measured by the academic h-index. Though the majority of influencers are orthopaedic surgeons, 22% of top influencers on Twitter are not, which is important to identify given the potential for these individuals to influence patients’ perceptions and expectations. This study also provides the top influencer network for other orthopaedic surgeons to engage with on social media to improve their own social media influence.
Core tip: In this study, we identify and characterize the top 100 social media influencers in orthopaedic surgery. We find that the top influencers were predominantly board-certified, sports-medicine subspecialists working in private practice in the United States (though 22% of top influencers were not orthopaedic surgeons). Social media influence was highly concordant with academic productivity as measured by the academic Hirsch index.