Who_Physicians_Follow_020916_-_Infogram__charts___infographicsReaders of this blog are already familiar with my disdain for unscientifically generated “top 100” style lists (except when I’m on them, of course). So in the spring of 2014, we published a series of posts looking who doctors follow on twitter. No subjectivity to it; just a list based on how many US doctors followed an individual twitter account.

In spite of Twitter’s recent financial woes, it is still THE go-to social media channel for physicians, reporters and many others in the online health ecosystem. Smart healthcare companies have known for years that online physicians are the unseen force that drives opinion & news in healthcare (Reference: Missing the Forest for the Trees: The change in physician roles that the healthcare industry missed | Measles Outbreak Story Broken by Doctor, Not Media | Online Physicians Fight Against Bad Science in the Media), so who they follow online is actually a pretty good indicator of who’s doing work that matters in healthcare. So when we have the ability to look at tens of thousands of validated physician accounts and see who they collectively follow the most, it can give us a pretty good read on what these online bellwethers of health really care about. Here are some of the things we found when we looked at the 1,000 twitter accounts that are most followed by a custom panel of US doctors (see detailed notes on methodology at the bottom of this post).

Not surprisingly, media outlets and journalists make up the largest number of most-commonly-followed accounts. That’s true for almost any audience on twitter, and it makes sense. Twitter is the place where news is shared the fastest & most effectively; therefore we follow media accounts. We’ve also seen in the just-over-three years of MDigitalLife’s existence that doctors are an incredibly tightly networked group. In fact, if we take organizations (like media outlets) out of the equation, doctors follow each other more than any other group of human beings. That’s one of the reasons that the online doctors have a such a strong and powerful voice – news travels fast in tight networks.

Things get particularly interesting when we start to break the list into chunks … we can see the beginning of the long tails forming.


The higher you go on the list, the more likely you are to see the bigger players – especially the organizations vs the individuals. Media outlets index much higher in the 1st 500 than in the 2nd (and there are twice as many media outlets in the top hundred than in the bottom hundred). The top half also features more well-known hospitals, government organizations like CDC, etc. There are many more individuals in the bottom half; more doctors, more individual journalists, etc.

[NOTE: before you start to equate the “bottom” described here with “bad,” keep in mind that these are the top 1,000 most followed accounts – out of nearly 5 million total accounts followed by the docs. These accounts are “the elite” in terms of physician attention and interest.]

To pique your interest, I’m going to share the most-followed media outlet accounts below; keep watching for additional posts that explore different audiences and relationships.


Our team will be launching a new demo at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference. If you’d like a sneak preview that shows you how YOUR twitter handle compares to your peers in the health ecosystem, just share a little information about yourself (http://j.mp/EcoJoin1) so that we can create a (completely confidential) mapping with you.

Connect with MDigitalLife on Facebook | Twitter – @MDigitalLife

Follow Greg Matthews on Twitter @chimoose

The 5 media outlets most-followed by US doctors:



More detailed methodology notes:

Using the proprietary MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem Database, we created a special panel of 20,000 twitter accounts operated by US Physicians matched to an NPI number. We then aggregated every account followed by the doctors in that panel (~5,000,000 twitter accounts), and created a list of the 1,000 twitter accounts with the most US physician followers. Of the thousand, 211 belonged to accounts that are not a part of the health ecosystem (almost all of them entertainers like @JimmyFallon or athletes like @KingJames. The remaining 789 all fell comfortably into one of our health ecosystem categories. These posts are based on insights derived from that list.