Copyright ©The Author(s) 2019. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Orthop. Sep 18, 2019; 10(9): 327-338
Published online Sep 18, 2019. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v10.i9.327
Who should you be following? The top 100 social media influencers in orthopaedic surgery
Nathan H Varady, Akash A Chandawarkar, Willem A Kernkamp, Itai Gans
Nathan H Varady, Willem A Kernkamp, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, United States
Akash A Chandawarkar, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, United States
Itai Gans, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, United States
Author contributions: Varady NH, Chandawarkar AA, Gans I conceived the research; Kernkamp WA and Varady NH collected the data; Varady NH analyzed the data; Varady NH wrote the paper; Varady NH, Chandawarkar AA, Kernkamp WA, Gans I critically revised the paper.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest related to this work.
PRISMA 2009 Checklist statement: The authors have read the PRISMA 2009 Checklist, and the manuscript was prepared and revised according to the PRISMA 2009 Checklist.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Itai Gans, MD, Surgeon, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 601 North Caroline Street, JHOC 5th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21205, United States.
Telephone: ‭+1-973-7236174‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
Received: March 28, 2019
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
Research background

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.

Research motivation

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.

Research objectives

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.

Research methods

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.

Research results

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.

Research conclusions

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.

Research perspectives

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.