(UroToday.com) The annual Journal of Urology Lecture at the 2020 American Urologic Association (AUA) virtual annual meeting was provided this year by John Davis, MD, who discussed the use of the web and social media sources for educating physicians. Dr. Davis noted that the goals of an academic social media presence are to enhance the quality and quantity of professional learning opportunities through peer-reviewed science, peer generated commentary, digital access, and a new world of metrics and possibilities. The British Journal of Urology International has always been a social media-friendly academic journal and early social media articles in the journal were not only popular but also citable:

Social media has permeated all aspects of our lives and this shows in the current utilization of social media. Dr. Davis notes that 45% of the world is active on a social media platform, including 74% of the AUA members based on the 2017 survey, 49% of academic departments, 34% of academic faculty, and 99% of urology residents. Twitter and YouTube are the most common platforms utilized for professional/science-related content, whereas Facebook accounts for the highest utilization overall. Importantly, there are several aspects that social media can achieve that print journals cannot, namely (i) immediacy of information – continued peer review and crowdsourcing, more images and video and mobility of access, and (ii) “Tweeting the Meeting” – insights into future publications and dissection new publications.

There are several pros to social media, including:

  • Patient visibility
  • Google rankings
  • US News rankings
  • Dissemination of research
  • Networking and collaborations
  • Improving article citations
  • Boosting social capital within the urologic community
  • Patient support groups and interest groups built around hashtags (#ILookLikeaSurgeon)
  • Visual abstracts increasing article engagement and dissemination

However, there are also cons associated with social media, including:

  • Lack of self-control – poor professionalism
  • Fake news, misinformation, and conflict of interest – highest for prostate cancer, inaccurate articles, poor commercial videos
  • Blurred lines between communications meant for professionals versus patients and the public
  • Lack of racial diversity in YouTube videos and clinical trials
  • Social media harassment
  • Polarizing opinions

In a study assessing factors associated with the patient’s selection of a urologist and the utilization of the internet and social media, Berger et al.1 found that the three most important surveyed urologist selection factors included hospital reputation, in-network providers, and appointment availability. Interestingly, the three least important included medical school attended, urologist on social media, and TV, radio, and/or billboard advertisements. A recent study from Teoh and colleagues2 discussed how to construct a useful tweet, noting that word count, number of mentions and the presence of a photo were predictors of likes and retweets. However, an increasing number of hashtags were associated with fewer likes, and the number of “followings” and “followers” of the contributor, and their time since joining Twitter did not have any association with the number of likes or retweets. 

Typical metrics for scientific publications include articles being cited in other journals, which translates to an impact factor. In the social media world, altmetrics is a metric of the article’s presence across social media platforms. Subjectively, social media attention can drive a future article acceptance, future article citations, and a journal’s impact factor. As social media continues to expand, maintaining a professional online identity, and interacting appropriately with one’s network are vital to engaging positively and protecting patient health information.3 There are many opportunities for collaboration and exchange of ideas, but pitfalls exist without the adherence to proper online etiquette.

Dr. Davis highlighted several other social media opportunities for physician education, including:

  • Journal Clubs: ie. #urojc
  • Video Crowdsourcing: rapid, efficient crowdsourcing for discussing operative approaches
  • Clinical utility and education
  • Journal of Urology ‘Pub Stream’
  • Post-graduate learning: ie. retzius-sparing robotic radical prostatectomy
  • Post-COVID online work and learning

Presented by: John Davis, MD, Professor, Department of Urology, Division of Surgery, Director, Urosurgical Prostate Program, Department of Urology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Written by: Zachary Klaassen, MD, MSc – Assistant Professor of Urology, Georgia Cancer Center, Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia, Twitter: @zklaassen_md at the 2020 American Urological Association (AUA) Annual Meeting, Virtual Experience #AUA20, June 27- 28, 2020


  1. Berger GK, Medairos R, Regala P, et al. Factors Influencing Patient Selection of Urologists. Urology. 2020 Mar;137:19-25.
  2. Teoh JYC, Mackenzie G, Smith M, et al. Understanding the Composition of a Successful Tweet in Urology. Eur Urol Focus. 2020 May 15;6(3):450-457.
  3. Taylor J, Loeb S. Guideline of Guidelines: Social Media in Urology. BJU Int. 2020 Mar;125(3):379-382.