On social media, people share some of their proudest milestones, like weddings and new additions to the family, as well as some of their most painful battles, like sudden illness or loss. When it comes to the latter, the Internet may indeed be the first place that people turn to for support and guidance. The safety behind a laptop screen gives people the convenience to research unsettling symptoms, as well as the courage to share a difficult journey. Some influencers are even bringing their journey to the forefront, like Korean Youtuber Dawn Lee, who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma. Today, we’re doing a data analysis of social media in healthcare for the modern-day patient journey in oncology.
What are the most talked-about aspects of the patient journey?
Healthcare and pharma companies need to sort through vast pools of social data to uncover valuable insights and treatment gaps that require attention from the medical community. To demonstrate this, we conducted our own social media data analysis, spanning a year, from September 2018 to September 2019 on the journey of cancer patients. (Although our research covered the general category of oncology and cancer, Synthesio can conduct social listening on specific subsets of oncology, such as breast cancer or non-small cell lung cancer.) Let’s jump in.
We found that more than one-third of these conversations (33.2% to be exact) talks about being diagnosed. Support is the next most-talked-about topic, taking up 27.6% of the conversation, followed by posts about what it’s like to live with cancer.
So, what are these conversations like?
Many people share joyful or hopeful stories of patients in remission or near remission.
Other times, however, people experience uncertainty and worry while waiting on an official diagnosis or while undergoing treatment.
Still others express frustration and confusion about the decisions of healthcare professionals.
When it comes to cancer, the conversation on social media is as varied and befuddling as the disease itself. But social media data analysis can make sense of that data for you.
Social Media Data Analysis Basics
First, here’s a look at the volume of online conversations related to cancer and oncology.
See that sudden spike in February? Our trend-detection software quickly quantified it as a 30% increase from the previous month and uncovered the reason behind it.
The top hashtag behind the peak was #worldcancerday.
It turns out that World Cancer Day is on February 4th. The connection here may seem obvious, but keeping track of such large volumes of data means that many events are easily lost in the shuffle. A social media intelligence platform solves that problem for you while quantifying and surfacing the numbers that matter.
Where are people talking about their patient journeys?
Twitter takes the lead by far, with 26.5% of the conversations around cancer happening there. Interestingly, general news outlets and forums are nearly tied, at 16.6% and 14.9% respectively. A shocking 10% of these discussions take place on Reddit, a category of its own (see purple bar).
Here’s a map of where these Twitter conversations are taking place.
What age groups are driving these conversations?
In these conversations, females aged 18-24 and 25-34 are most vocal online. Compared to men, women are almost always more vocal, except for those aged 55 and above. These statistics alone provide valuable information on how cancer-related announcements and releases can reach your target audience. Knowing your audience allows you to purposefully allocate your budget to the right avenues where information should be shared.
How can social media data analysis help my company?
Discovering topics of interest online gives you the starting point of what people care about and which direction your company should move towards. The following top keywords reveal that breast cancer perhaps receives the most visibility online, as well as the fact that “support,” “care,” and “research” are meaningful to many worldwide.
Social media data analysis also uncovers patient concerns that may otherwise remain off the radar. Threads on forums such as Breastcancer.org reveal the disconnect between patient care and healthcare professionals. One patient started a thread where she shared her confusion about her own treatment plan.
One user’s reply emphasized her reliance on online resources for information.
Another user urged the patient to seek more thorough medical attention.
Understanding the emotional burden of patients and families, which is often shared online, can pave the way for improved training in bedside manner for healthcare professionals. Where and when do patients need the most support? What are the most common frustrations toward oncology teams? What are the main concerns of the caregiver? All of this is crucial for developing and implementing a more comprehensive plan of care. Thorough medical care involves understanding the patient’s mindset, providing emotional support, and clearly explaining the diagnosis and treatment plan. These insights can be easily gleaned from the vast pool of data online. And they go a long way in providing the best care possible.
Using Social Media Data Analysis To Uncover Unmet Needs
Another aspect of evaluating patient needs is finding out where needs are currently unmet. As we saw in the example above, many patients obtain their information online. Is there an area where there is a lack of empirical research and data? Is there inaccurate information on the Internet? This is a perfect opportunity for your company to fill this void with solid research or help articles. Take charge of this area and become a leader in providing accurate information.
Finally, powering the design of treatments through honest feedback on social media data is a patient-centered approach. Social media data analysis allows companies to listen to the voice of an extremely large, international patient base and incorporate patient feedback into R&D. Companies can learn about the patient journey from start to finish, whether it’s the diagnosis, treatment, or remission, and uncover what’s been helpful (and what hasn’t been). Strategically designed social media data analysis allows you to selectively listen to a specific target audience and uncover unmet needs and areas that require further research.
Knowing your patients’ journeys from start to finish is crucial to implementing the lived experiences of cancer patients into the future development of medicine. Social media empowers patients and caregivers to share their opinions with the global community directly. Now, it’s time for companies to put these pools of data to good use.