Is there a 'best' Twitter app and do doctors care?

I have been using Twitter for one year now and always seem to be searching for the best Twitter app. This despite the fact that only an estimated 1% of Canadians (estimated 16.5 million users worldwide vs 123 million on facebook) are even using Twitter and a very large percentage of those who sign up for Twitter stop using it soon afterwards because they don't 'get it.' No Twitter app is perfect for everyone but the bigger question is, what will it take for more people to understand what Twitter is all about when it comes to Ophthalmology or other fields of medicine?

A key question for me, living in my working world of subspecialty medicine and virtual world of gadgets and social networking, is what will it take for my colleagues to understand how social media can be a helpful tool in medicine? Joel Schuman and I have been successful in establishing a Glaucoma Patient Group on Facebook that allows glaucoma patients to interact. The current state of the art for glaucoma doctors though is e-mail listservs for posting medical questions for other colleagues to add their two cents. This format certainly has its role but there are times when tweets would work better. For example, our professional organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology @AAO_ophth would have the ability to reach its members with important ophthalmology news alerts such as drug recalls, interesting articles in our field, as well as upcoming conference submission deadlines. In fact, they are doing this now but only have 377 followers, most of these not ophthalmologists but rather companies related to eye care. This tree is falling in the forest for nobody to hear. There are some of us on board but we need to show others how we can share information that is important in our field.

As for what is the 'best' Twitter app, that becomes a matter of personal taste and always changes as each app gets updated. I am not using the app I had started with and have been off and on different bandwagons for adopting others. I have tried Tweetie, Twitterific, Twittelator, Twittelator Pro, Twitter Fon and TweetDeck all on the iPhone as well as the desktop TweetDeck and Tweetie apps. Despite the hype and good looks, TweetDeck pales in comparison to the current clear winner: Tweetelator Pro. The previous version of Twittelator Pro had seemed overwhelming when I had first stated, but a year later, the current version is, at least for me, the clear winner.

For me, it really is not practical to have a desktop app running 24/7 in the background while I do my work in order to avoid missing any tweets. I need an app that can allow me to see more than just the past 200 tweets should I not check my tweets for a few hours. Even the desktop version of the highly coveted TweetDeck, if you close it and re-open it later, only the last 200 tweets will be imported from Twitter and refreshing does not import the other hundreds I missed in the interim. I have to pay attention to my patients and therefore check-in with my tweets every 4-6 hours when possible but sometimes not for 8 hours or more. The dilemma comes in how to catch-up with missing tweets without having to go to to read them. As best as I can tell, unless I'm missing something, there are few apps, aside from Twittelator Pro, that allow you to load more than the past 200 tweets from your account. Another reason I currently use Twittelator Pro.

When I first joined Twitter, it did take awhile to 'get-it.' For the newbie, an app like Tweetie is perfect. Very simple interface that you can't get lost in. For more power-users, the features on Twittelator Pro may have seemed overwhelming, especially in their prior version, but now with 3.0 it seems like even a newbie will figure it out. Once I have the iPhone 3GS, still in short supply in Canada for corporate clients like me, this app even allows tweeting video clips. I have therefore moved Twitter Fon (an excellent app) and TweetDeck (an over-rated flashy, impossible to read in daylight app that misses key features in current version) off my front page of my iPhone and replaced it with Twittelator Pro.

So, armed now with my favourite Twitter app...where is the ophthalmology community? Why do most searches in Twitter bring up people talking about having 'anal glaucoma,' dudes talking about marijuana, or people saying they hate their glaucoma test whereas very little is actually about the medical condition. We need more ophthalmologists and glaucoma subspecialists to adopt to this technology. The business world gets it, seeing that most @AAO_ophth followers are pharmaceutical and other industry people, but doctors still need to catch on. Catch the wave!