If you’re thinking about trying Twitter, now is always a great time to start. If you’re also interested in health IT, right now is an even better time to start. The HIMSS conference and exhibition – the largest annual event focused on health IT – begins on Mon, Feb. 20. HIMSS12, as it’s known, offers a lively and useful Twitter experience. Even now, while most of the more than 20,000 who will attend the live conference in Las Vegas have not yet packed a suitcase, the #HIMSS12 tweet stream is full of information, links, questions, and, yes, marketing—all available publicly, for free. Whether or not you plan to attend, viewing messages that contain the “hashtag” associated with the conference – #HIMSS12 – will yield an ongoing stream of current information, links, and individuals all along the experience-and-expertise spectrum. In addition to hosting a large, active Twitter community, HIMSS provides worthwhile education about social media and healthcare. The HIMSS Social Media Center has grown steadily over the years, providing a cozy neighborhood of sorts within the frenetic, sometimes overwhelming conference.
If you’re game, go to www.twitter.com and sign up. You can “lurk” silently, without posting any messages, but you must first create an account. Now you can view tweets by searching for a Twitter name, @HIMSS for example. You may want to click on some of the accounts (@_____) that are following @HIMSS, which will bring you into the “neighborhood.” For a deeper dive, sample some of the accounts, websites, and hashtags collected by folks in the mobile health community within HIMSS, published as the HIMSS12 Twitter Cheat sheet. There are some good basic instructions on the Twitter website.