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Using Twitter to Assess Patient Takes on Patient Experience

Topic: Using Twitter to Assess Patient Takes on Patient Experience

Twitter may be becoming the new online provider review, with patients flocking to the social media website to offer their takes on clinician relationships. In many cases, these Tweets can tell providers a lot about the patient experience, according to research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

In an analysis of a popular Twitter hashtag, researchers found that patients largely take umbrage when they feel their doctor does not believe their ailment or knowledge about their how healthcare, and when they perceive a power hierarchy between themselves and their clinician.

Over the past decade, the internet has become a common place for patients to provide their feedback on their healthcare experience. Most healthcare organizations host a place on their websites where they can provide clinician reviews, while third-party websites like Healthgrades have sprung up to elicit patient reviews. In many cases, patients will take to social media websites like Facebook, Yelp, Google, or Twitter to leave a review.

And these online provider reviews make a difference. In 2019, a OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of Binary Fountain found that 75 percent of patients consult an online provider review website before booking an appointment. In January 2020, AARP reported that 43 percent of seniors—who utilize healthcare the most—are using online provider reviews.

Although not as many patients are using Twitter to get peer feedback on certain providers (the Binary Fountain poll showed only 21 percent of patients do this), the social media website still holds a lot of power, researchers from the University of California system wrote in JMIR. Twitter is a large platform that hosts social discourse. Healthcare professionals use Twitter to disseminate public health and patient education messages and to network, while 61 percent of patients use Twitter to learn more about their health, as well.

Negative messages about a clinician—or even the medical profession in general—could create a massive reputation problem, but it could also clue clinicians into the biggest pain points for patients accessing care.

The researchers zeroed in on one Twitter hashtag in particular, #DoctorsAreDickheads (which we will henceforth refer to as “the hashtag”), which has drummed up some 40,000 Tweets since 2018. The team conducted a qualitative analysis of public Tweets containing that hashtag, looking specifically at who was using the hashtag, what kinds of complaints they were issuing and what types of conditions they had, and other prevailing themes under the hashtag.

Half of the Tweets came from patients, while another 4.3 percent came from the caregivers who attend to them. Just over 9 percent of Tweets were from medical professionals themselves, while just under 4 percent were from academics or researchers. A notable 31.6 percent of Tweets using the hashtag came from non-healthcare professionals.

Most of the users posting with the hashtag had either a chronic pain diagnosis, a mental health condition, or some musculoskeletal condition, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, the condition the hashtag’s originator has.

Many of the analyzed Tweets painted a portrait of poor patient-provider relationships. Patients expressed that their providers did not believe their pain or their prior experiences in healthcare, while others pointed out a harmful power hierarchy between them and their providers.

Topic Discussed: Using Twitter to Assess Patient Takes on Patient Experience

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