Twitter saving lives in wake of Japan disaster

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According to a report by the BBC, Japanese doctors are applauding the social networking and microblogging site Twitter, calling it “an excellent system” that allows them to communicate with patients to let them know where they can obtain vital medication. The doctors’ appreciation of the service came to light on Friday after letters were published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals.

While the March 11 quake knocked out most phone services, Internet access remained largely unaffected, allowing doctors to utilize Twitter’s service. In one of the letters published in The Lancet, Dr Yuichi Tamura and Dr Keiichi Kukuda of Keio University School Of Medicine in Tokyo, said initially their main challenge following the disaster was how to get vital pulmonary hypertension drugs to those who needed them.

“Forming a supply chain for such drugs in the earliest stages of the disaster was difficult; however we found that social networking services could have a useful role,” they said. The re-tweet facility facility meant that important information could be communicated quickly.

They went on to explain: “We were able to notify displaced patients via Twitter on where to acquire medications. These tweets immediately spread through patients’ networks, and consequently most could attend to their essential treatments.”

“Our experience has shown that social networking services, run concurrently with physical support, were significant in triumphing over many difficulties in the recent catastrophe,” the doctors said in the letter, highlighting the widening and positive ways in which platforms such as Twitter can be used.

It’s not only Japan’s medical profession that has been putting Twitter to good use following the disaster. The management of TEPCO, responsible for Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima, also launched a Twitter account to provide the public with updates on that state of the damaged reactors. At the time of writing, TEPCO’s Twitter account has more than 300,000 followers, and has seen 80 tweets in almost two months.

Twitter has become a big hit with the Japanese, with a study last year showing it to be even more popular than Facebook.

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