Disease Hashtags on Twitter … the Healthcare Hashtag Project: Phase 2

We are so fond of one another because our ailments are the same.

The number of healthcare conversations taking place on Twitter is truly staggering.  And, as many of you are aware, we’ve made an attempt to organize these conversations via the Healthcare Hashtag Project.  Our initial launch of this ever growing list of health related hashtags for Twitter was focused on the “business of healthcare”.  But we announced early on that it was our intent to add a section that would include disease hashtags to the mix.  However, over the ensuing months a number of individuals began beating us to the punch, submitting disease related hashtags that we readily accepted (i.e., #autism, #diabetes, #rheum, and more).


Patients on Twitter use disease hashtags

Well, we’re finally catching up with a progressive community of patients who are remarkably active in healthcare social media.

Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new section on our site that’s dedicated to Twitter hashtags related to diseases, conditions, and other personal health related topics.  Once again, our goal is to lower the barrier to entry for physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals who are interested in integrating healthcare social media into their respective businesses.  And what better way to do that than to invite the patient, caregiver, and healthcare provider communities to collectively join one another in these active discussions where each has an interest, concern, and a contribution to make.


A curated list of Twitter Hashtags for diseases, conditions, and related discussions

eating disorder social media To develop this list beyond those related hashtags already submitted to us, we used disease lists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other reputable sources.  From there we began conducting manual Twitter searches using the diseases listed.  Then, visually scanning the tweets returned, we looked for all the hashtags being used to reference those subjects.  We screened for critical mass in the conversations, excessive use of the hashtags in a non-healthcare context, and those health hashtags that are overwhelmed with spam.  Lastly, we loosely organized the list based on the related categories for these respective diseases found in the ICD-9-CM.  Having sorted all that out, we’re excited to present an inaugural set of 155 hashtags that are dedicated to meaningful discussions related to over 100 various diseases, conditions and related topics centered on the health concerns of patients in our Twitter community.

However, there were two considerable obstacles in developing this list in a manner that allowed it to be a useful tool for our healthcare community.  And these obstacles may still present some challenges for serious users.

I’m talking about spam and vulgarity.  Read on …


Healthcare Spam on Twitter … #AnnoyingTheConsumer

hashtag spam

By spam I’m referring to some health conditions, and their related hashtags, as being overwhelmed on Twitter by the extremely excessive tweeting of products or services for sale to address the related condition.  This is an unfortunate example of organizations who may, or may not, have something of value to offer to those interested in the health topic at hand … but completely miss the the “social aspect” of social media.  Their boorish, even offensive broadcasting drowns out meaningful healthcare conversations … and is actually the “anti-conversation” that pervades a segment of health conditions on Twitter.


Misguided and Offensive Use of Health Hashtags … #Sad

Sadly, perhaps even more troubling than the spam issue discussed above, is the sometimes vulgar use of these disease hashtags.  I’m referring to those who use these conditions as a means of insulting people, putting them down, and belittling them.  This is a sad commentary on a segment of our global society.  I bring this up because I want to warn you that certain hashtags, even though we’ve screened much of this out, are going to find some tweets from the uninformed, crass, and immature members of Twitter at large.


Take Control of health related hashtags on Twitter!

To the issues of spam and vulgarity, I say, “Take control!”  Some people are comfortable directly challenging and confronting those Twitter users who are interfering with the real conversations.  And I personally commend those who do.  However, I’d like to invite our global healthcare community to chime in on possible methods to collectively clear the air of these obstacles.

So, in keeping the Healthcare Hashtag Project social … what are your thoughts?  Should we identify and list the spammers, chastise the offensive, or just ignore it?  Something else?

I’m seriously interested in your comments on this.


This is a Social Project … so contribute, share, and make it grow

The Healthcare Hashtag Project is once again relying on the Twitter community to add new hashtags to the list.  However, as always, we curate these hashtags.  So this is a place to register those conversations that are already taking place.  And please understand that we vet every submission to be sure that it’s appropriate for inclusion, because we want to keep this list clear of stagnant, spam-laden, or multi-topic hashtags.  We do this for the good of everyone.

With all that said … please come step into the first official list of “Disease, Conditions, and Related Disorders Twitter Hashtags”.  And, just like with our initial launch of this project, we invite you to … “take it for a spin, let us know what you think, and to help us build a more well connected healthcare community.”


Disease, Conditions, and Related Disorders Twitter Hashtags

Thomas M. Lee, B.S., NHA - @tmlfox

Spends days connecting dots in healthcare social media. Co-founder of Symplur and The Healthcare Hashtag Project. Curious by nature.

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  1. @salt_mine

    Liz Panton - @salt_mine

    This is an excellent project! I have used the Healthcare Hashtags Project and can attest that the Healthcare Hashtags Project team act very quickly to authorise suggested tags and are very friendly and helpful.

    The Transcript feature is very useful for a “catchup” after real-time conversations have whizzed by or if the conference or chat is in a way-different time zone. Being able to print or save pdf’s of the transcripts is also a great help. Twitter is blocked for most clinical staff across the NHS in the UK so I have used the Hashtags Project to create pdf’s to share with colleagues.

    I didn’t know about the Foxepractice (now Symplur) Healthcare Hashtags project when I started using Twitter. I came across lots of abbreviation and acronym hashtags in my field, Speech & Language Therapy, that I could not immediately decode.

    Knowing that I could not be the only one, I started a collaborative dictionary of Speech & Language Hashtags at http://j.mp/sltags

    This was as a contribution to two UK campaigns about Speech, Language and Communication Disability, http://www.givingvoiceuk.org #givingvoiceuk and http://www.hello.org.uk #hello_2011 – and then a follower of a follower on Twitter pointed me to the Healthcare Hashtags project! I have since put a link to the Heathcare Hashtags Project on http://j.mp/sltags

    @Audvin tweeted yesterday about another article in this blog: Speaking personally: where to give voice to healthcare interests on the social web http://ow.ly/8IO0g

    I didn’t immediately link this in my mind with the Healthcare Hashtags Project but I was intrigued by @Audvin saying to “give voice”, due to involvement with the #givingvoiceuk campaign.

    I am glad I followed that up but am ashamed to say that it has reminded me that I have not kept a resolution I made last year, ie. to submit the Speech & Language hashtags I have spotted to the Healthcare Hashtags Project.

    As I obviously cannot be trusted to remember to do this, I would be grateful if someone from Symplur could follow the Twitter ID that I use to give notice of new Speech & Language hashtags: @SLTags and decide if you want the add them to the Healthcare Hashtags Project?

    These are not necessarily “disease” hashtags but are “healthcare” abbreviations and acronyms that I have spotted in use as hashtags. For example, the latest added is:

    #SpLD “Specific Learning Difficulties defined here http://j.mp/yHdff1 as including: dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, #ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder, #ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, #ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorders”

    It is interesting that some of these terms have been invented for use on Twitter and have spread into wider use. The classic one for my field is #slpeeps (Speech & Language People) invented by @SLPTanya

    Many thanks again for such a useful service – and for providing it for free!

    • @tmlfox

      Thomas M. Lee, B.S., NHA - @tmlfox

      Wow! Thank you, Liz for such a fine contribution.

      Adding hashtags to this project isn’t difficult at all. Take a look at this link and I think you’ll agree – http://www.symplur.com/social/

      However, my natural curiosity has got the best of me, so I’ve already begun exploring the list of Speech & Language Hashtags that you’ve been compiling. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll review these for inclusion. But do try to take a stab at it yourself as you identify new health conversations on Twitter. You’ll feel good about it … and be able to claim that your resolution was kept. ;-)

      • @salt_mine

        Liz Panton - @salt_mine

        Dear Thomas,

        Thank you for your very kind comments and I hope that you find some helpful Hashtags in my list :-)

        To reassure anyone else reading this, I do agree that it is very easy to add new hashtags to the Symplur Healthcare Hashtags Project – it is just that:

        a) I am very forgetful, and

        b) now that I have organised myself to be less forgetful, using ToodleDo, I find I have a “to do” list as long as several arms!

        Best wishes,


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