I saw this on another page, but its spam filter was all messed up and I couldn’t post my comment, so I’m bringin’ it back home.
I do not think Twitter is the appropriate tool for most of these types of actions, though I do believe hospitals should embrace web 2.0 techniques. Really, the important part is not the tool, but the actual personal connection between medical staff and patients that the tools allow.
For example, status updates are the most boring thing about Twitter; doctors are not going to tweet all the meetings they go to. It is good for keeping up to date with what is being talked about within a particular community or interest sphere, so the medical community could really realize some value by getting hip to it. But the public timeline is not really a good place for patients to interact with their doctors. The direct message tools may be more useful for specific medical quesitons, since they are not publicly viewable. But, wouldn’t email be just as good?
Combined with other Web 2.0 tools like blogs and social bookmarking, it could have some potential. And many doctors offices still haven’t made themselves available to patients via email, which probably would be a very valuable tool for those instances where you want personal medical advice (not WebMD) but an office visit is unnecessary and expensive.
All in all, social networking tools might feel overwhelming to doctors, but they could make a real difference as long as doctors did not have so many patients that they could not use a little time for interaction with each of them.