The University of Pennsylvania researchers, who evaluated health related discussions on Twitter for over a month, found that users of the popular microblogging site frequently share vital information about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and discuss resuscitation topics in the news.
CPR is an emergency procedure to manually preserve brain functioning during a cardiac arrest. AED is a portable device to treats life-threatening cardiac conditions.
The trend on Twitter shows that it represents a promising avenue to respond to queries from the public and disseminate information about this leading killer -- particularly in the areas of CPR training and lifesaving interventions such as therapeutic hypothermia, the researchers said.
'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,' Raina Merchant, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, said in a statement.
'Health care providers and advocacy groups can push information to the public about CPR training and best practices in cardiac arrest care, and participate in real-time discussions about cardiac arrest issues in the media.
'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,' Merchant said.
In one of their studies, the researchers identified 15,324 tweets involving cardiac arrest specific information.
Of those, 14 per cent referenced cardiac arrest events, with five per cent of those messages relating personal experiences with the condition and nine per cent representing users sharing information relating to arrest locations and treatment interventions and guidelines.
Twenty nine per cent of tweets referenced CPR performance or AED use, with 23 per cent of them involving stories about real-life performance of CPR or classroom training in the technique and likes/dislikes regarding CPR/AED courses.
Nearly 60 per cent of the tweets were on health education -- such as advocacy group and training events -- and sharing of cardiac arrest-related news articles about celebrities, athletes and young adults affected by the condition.
In another study, the researchers sought to understand what types of questions the public is asking about cardiac arrest on Twitter.
Though it was found that users asked about five questions a day, the topics they queried about represent rich opportunities for public education and outreach to the broader Twitter user community, the researchers added.