Twitter helped doctors during Japanese disaster

Doctors in Japan used Twitter to coordinate medical assistance in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in March this year.

In a letter to The Lancet this week, Yuichi Tamura and Keiichi Fukuda of the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo say the social networking service played a significant role in triumphing over the disaster.

The pair explain the earthquake made it difficult to ensure a continuous supply of drugs for their patients suffering chronic diseases such as pulmonary hypertension. With phone lines unreliable but internet connections still working, they turned to Twitter to help inform people where to get their medicine.

Tamura set up an account, @ut1tamura, three days after the disaster and tweeted information from his hospital computer, providing messages in Japanese such as "Patient can get the orphan drugs for pulmonary hypertension in XX hospital" or "Patient should keep additional oxygen tanks preparing for electrical power interruption, and can get tanks by XX".

Retweeting meant the messages spread rapidly and ordinary Twitter users were quick to lend a hand. "Not only patients but also other general persons provided retweets," says Tamura.
This stream of information combined with drug deliveries to patients by medical staff meant that all of their patients received the treatment they needed.

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