The way that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is using Twitter during the H1N1 influenza situation has changed my perspective about the use of online social media in healthcare. I previously wrote off Twitter as a fad or phenomenon that would fade away as quickly as it appeared. I could not see value in communicating information in less than 141 characters. However, I found that I did gain value when I began following the CDC's swine flu "tweets" (@CDCemergency), especially during the first few weeks of the H1N1 influenza situation. When the CDC discovered new information or developed new recommendations, they not only posted it on their website, but they also used Twitter to alert followers that there was new information or recommendations posted (with hints regarding the subject of the new content). The "tweet", which I set up to come through my iPhone, often included a brief summary and a link that conveniently took the follower directly to the full content of the new information which was posted on their website. This saved me time as I did not have actively look for new content on the website if I had not been alerted by Twitter. I also did not have to surf through the CDC websites to find new information. This spurs me to seriously consider how I might use Twitter and other social media within my practice of medicine. I already recognize the value of blogs. At my son's college, for instance, the dean uses a blog to communicate with his large, diverse community of students, parents, professors and so forth. He even posts YouTube videos of some of the "happenings" at the University. I like that as a parent. So, it has got me seriously thinking about how I might use Twitter and a blog site to allow me to more effectively reach out to my adolescent patients who are quite comfortable with this new type of social interaction. Perhaps there is a place for Facebook in my practice as well, but will take things one step at a time. Certainly any large physician group or even a healthcare system could use these social media tools to more effectively communicate with patients, parents and families just as the dean at a University does. Some are beginning to do that. Not exactly sure how this will all work out...but I figure the best approach is to jump in with something, get feedback and continually adjust it.