The Oncology Tag Ontology: Professional–Centered Collaboration and Networking

Just a little bit over a year ago, Symplur shared the Cancer Tag Ontology (CTO), a set of disease-specific hashtags to help connect people interested in specific types of cancer. Used on Twitter, the CTO tags have been helpful to start curating and sharing health information.  Many people and organizations are now using them.

Health care professionals should have their own tags to connect, too. While doctors, nurses and other professionals do use the CTO tags, ultimately they are patient-centered.  These disease-oriented tags don’t focus on the interests and needs of people who dedicate their careers to cancer care.  Patients deserve empowerment and support. But so do professionals.

Some tags had already started to emerge in oncology.  After collecting what was there, I made some suggestions in an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) blog post.  Thank you to Elizabeth Blanchard, Michael FischMike Thompson, Yusuf Zafar and others who contributed.

After getting individual feedback, I had further conversations with people at ASCO and the National Cancer Institute to see what might work.  So here it is, the Oncology Tag Ontology (OTO).

For my field, radiation oncology, we have started a #radonc journal club that has had over 150 participants during the four sessions we have had. Others may find other innovate ways to organize and network around professional priorities. Of course anyone is welcome to participate, but the intent of these tags is to empower professionals and to address their needs.

If hashtags can help in cancer care, why not other areas of medicine? We’ll see what the future holds. But for now, professionals deserve a way to find each other online too. The OTO may do that for oncology.

What do you think? How can we make this technique help oncology professionals?

Matthew S. Katz, MD - @subatomicdoc

Matthew S. Katz, MD, is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Lowell General Hospital and a partner in Radiation Oncology Associates, PA. He is former Chair of Communications Committee for the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and external advisor for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. He is co-moderator of the #radonc journal club and serves on committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Massachusetts Medical Society. His main areas of interest are cancer care, patient education and health empowerment.

One Response to “The Oncology Tag Ontology: Professional–Centered Collaboration and Networking”

  1. Introducing the Cardiology Hashtag Ontology

    […] is by codifying a set of terms common in the cardiovascular world, and much like our colleagues in oncology, radiation oncology, and recently urology, providing a cardiovascular ontology around which […]


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