Twitter as a Lifesaver?

Washington, Nov 13 (IANS): Twitter could become a new mode of saving lives by providing vital information about health-related matters to its growing number of users.

Researchers who studied tweets on cardiac arrest suggest that Twitter represents a unique, promising avenue to respond to queries from the public and disseminate information about this leading killer.

"Twitter is an incredible resource for connecting and mobilising people, and it offers users a way to receive instant feedback and information. The potential applications of social media for cardiac arrest are vast," said Raina Merchant who led the study.

"Twitter might even be harnessed to save lives in an emergency, by allowing bystanders who respond to cardiac arrests in public places to seek information about the location of the closest AED (automated external defibrillator)," said Merchant, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn University.

The varsity's Perelman School of Medicine evaluated cardiac arrest and resuscitation related tweets during a month-long period in early 2011, according to a statement.

They discovered that users frequently share information about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AEDs.

CPR is an emergency procedure to manually preserve brain functioning until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing during a cardiac arrest.

AED is a portable device that treats life-threatening cardiac conditions with electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia (erratic heartbeats), allowing the organ to re-establish an effective rhythm.

In one of the new studies, the researchers identified 15,324 tweets involving cardiac arrest specific information.

Of those, 14 percent referenced cardiac arrest events, with five percent of those messages relating personal experiences with the condition (such as, "when I or a family member/friend had a cardiac arrest") and nine percent representing users sharing information relating to arrest locations and treatment interventions and guidelines.

Twenty nine percent of tweets referenced CPR performance or AED use, with 23 percent of those messages involving personal stories about real-life performance of CPR or classroom training in the technique and likes/dislikes regarding CPR/AED courses.

Nearly 60 percent of the tweets related to health education - such as advocacy group and training events - and the sharing of cardiac arrest-related news articles about celebrities, athletes and young adults affected by the condition.


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