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 is playing an increasingly large role in medicine, and several studies have described how orthopaedic patients use social media. In addition to patient use, Twitter was named an “essential tool” for the academic surgeon given its ability to serve as a tool to share findings, collaborate, network, and educate. Despite the large emerging role of social media in medicine, however, no study has assessed the top social media influencers in orthopaedic surgery.
Given that social media is playing an increasingly large role as a face by which patients are exposed to orthopaedics, identifying who is sharing information to patients is highly important. These individuals play a critical role in setting patient expectations, encouraging appropriate utilization, and providing accurate orthopaedic education.
The purpose of this study was to identify the top 100 social media influencers within orthopaedics, characterize who they are, and relate their social media influence to academic influence. This analysis will allow us to identify who is controlling the conversation about orthopaedics to the public.
In this observational study, we queried the Right Relevance API for the topic of “orthopaedics.” This API uses sophisticated partitioning techniques to calculate influence based on a variety of factors, including connections (follower/following) to other influencers and engagement (views, likes, retweets). We then used these individuals’ public Twitter bios and other public sources to characterize them with respect to specialty, subspecialty, practice setting, location, board certification, and academic h-index.
We identified the 100 top influencers in orthopaedic surgery; these individuals represented 9 different countries. 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), which can be references against the median reported h-index of academic orthopaedic faculty of 5 and orthopaedic chairpersons of 13. Of the 100 top influencers, 78% were orthopaedic surgeons. Sports medicine (54%), hand and upper extremity (18%), and spine (8%) were the most common orthopaedic subspecialties. Most influencers worked in private practice (53%), followed by academics (17%), privademics (14%), and hospital-based (9%). All board-eligible orthopaedic surgeons were board-certified.
The top orthopaedic social media influencers on Twitter were predominantly board-certified, sports-medicine orthopaedic surgeons, representing countries from around the world. However, 22% of top influencers were not orthopaedic surgeons, which is important to identify given the potential for these individuals to influence patients’ perceptions and expectations. Social media influence within orthopaedics was not disconnected from academic index: the median h-index among top influencers (7) was higher than the median reported h-index of orthopaedic academic faculty (5). Here we also provide the top influencer network for other sports surgeons to engage with on social media to improve their own social media influence.
While we find that the majority of orthopaedic influencers are board-certified orthopaedic surgeons, more than 1/5 of the top influencers are not. Moving forward, orthopaedic surgeons should continue to increase their social media presence to ensure they are controlling the conversation about orthopaedics to the public. From an academic perspective, future work is indicated to identify the specific impact social media has on patient decision making and outcomes.