Elon Musk owns Twitter. Should healthcare organizations be worried?

New York-based Mount Sinai Health System typically posts several times a day for its 89,500 followers. Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic Health System’s more than 20,000 followers can usually see new content at least every few days. Intermountain Healthcare in Utah has 32,600 followers and posts regularly each week.

Among insurance companies, Humana has close to 45,000 followers and often posts content several times day. Aetna, with 54,200 followers, usually posts multiple times in a month. UnitedHealthcare also regularly posts content for its 57,700 followers.

These systems and companies either declined comment or did not respond to requests for comment about whether they’d alter their use of the platform. Grappling with any potential changes on Twitter comes as healthcare companies and organizations have struggled to combat misinformation circulated on social media about COVID-19 and vaccinations during the pandemic.

Tim Koelzer, managing partner at EquiBrand Consulting, which works with healthcare clients, said he expects short-term backlash from users who disapprove of Musk, but that many will eventually come back to the platform. Most people have already decided whether they view Twitter as a viable source of information, he added.

“From a healthcare perspective, though, there’s an added layer of trust and integrity,” Koelzer said. “You’re dealing with people’s lives. It’s not a political issue of, are you Republican or Democrat?”

Chip Kahn, president and CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said no one has come to grips with what to do about the misinformation problem on social media. He thinks it is too early to determine whether Twitter’s usefulness will be undermined, but if it did become too inappropriate, healthcare organizations may have to find other ways for mass communication.

Kahn said he wonders what Twitter’s prevailing business model will be. “Elon Musk has been very successful at providing the market what it needs, and so despite all the noise, I feel like Twitter has been so important for communicating at all kinds of levels that it’ll be sustained,” Kahn said.

Musk, who has previously expressed his disdain for advertising, appealed to advertisers in a post on Thursday, saying, “Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world,” and will focus on providing users with relevant ads.

Late Thursday, Musk tweeted “the bird is freed.” The New York Times reported that in the 24 hours before Musk’s deal for Twitter closed, thousands of new accounts were created and added to the surge of new followers of Twitter’s most influential far-right accounts. The report noted it was uncertain if the surge in activity was related to Musk’s ownership but the CEO of Memetica, the digital investigations company cited in the report, said the findings were alarming.

Friday afternoon, Musk tweeted that the company would form “a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.”

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