Twitter helps raise stroke awareness

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   1st May 2018

Twitter can play an important role in educating patients to recognise the signs of stroke

Tuesday 1 May 2018

By June Shannon

The growing use of social media to raise awareness of public health issues has been highlighted in a new study which found that Twitter can play an important role in educating patients to recognise the signs and symptoms of stroke and be better informed of the treatments available.

The research which was published recently in a medical journal found that the use of the stroke hashtag (#Stroke) on Twitter has increased significantly in the past six years and provides an important opportunity to engage both patients and healthcare professionals.

For the study a team of US researchers analysed 621,653 tweets containing the #Stroke hashtag from 20 March 2012 to 31 January 2018. Twitter accounts flagged as spam and those that applied the #Stroke hashtag in an inappropriate manner were not included, as were those that could not be categorised in several categories including healthcare professionals, patients, caregivers and researchers.

The finding revealed that the number of users, impressions, and tweets containing #Stroke increased by an annual average of 64.9%, 87.7%, and 89.2% over the period of the study.

From 20 March 2012 to 31 January 2018 the #Stroke hashtag was used in more than a million tweets

.

From 20 March 2012 to 31 January 2018, the #Stroke hashtag was used in more than a million tweets with an average of 13,504 tweets a month.

#Stroke experienced an annual increase in users of 136.9%, 76.4%, 53.3%, 39.4%, and 18.5% over the study time period and the number of tweets containing #Stroke also increased year on year by 176.0%, 108.8%, 73.2%, 57.7%, and 30.2%.

The study also revealed that 69,371 tweets or 11.2 per cent contained novel content and 48,568 tweets (7.8 per cent) related to patient care.

According to the findings, stroke prevention, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation were commonly discussed topics and #Stroke generated a high level of engagement with 259,438 retweets (41.7%), 366,561 mentions (59.0%), and 8549 replies (1.4%).

Doctors and patients wrote 52,197 (8.4%) and 41,822 (6.7%) of the tweets, respectively with advocate organisations, patients, and non-healthcare individuals being the most frequent users of #Stroke on Twitter.

Increased social media engagement surrounding stroke medicine is important because it provides patients with an opportunity to recognize the signs of stroke early

.

According to the researchers, increased social media engagement surrounding stroke medicine is “important because it provides patients with an opportunity to learn and recognize the signs of stroke early and subsequently reach the appropriate level of care
sooner. “

Particularly as time is of utmost importance in stroke, the authors wrote that increasing patient awareness of the signs of stroke would hopefully increase the number of patients who could benefit from treatments for the condition.

“Additionally, increased physician engagement in social media can encourage the sharing of innovative ideas, generate networking opportunities, and provide a conduit
for professional activities including advertisement and patient recruitment into clinical trials,” they added.

"It's a very good sign to see a rapidly increasing volume of tweets on stroke and related topics which suggests increasing stroke awareness in the community.”

Prof Sean Murphy, Joint-Director Acute Stroke Service , The Mater Hospital in Dublin

Professor Sean Murphy Joint-Director of the Acute Stroke Service in the Mater Hospital in Dublin said it was a “very good sign to see a rapidly increasing volume of tweets on stroke and related topics which suggests increasing stroke awareness in the community.”

The increasing presence of stroke advocacy organisations in the volume of tweets emphasizes the important role stroke advocacy organisations have in spreading greater awareness about stroke, he added.

Prof Murphy said that the increased use of #stroke was also welcome “given recent evidence suggesting an increase in stroke in young people; the very demographic who might be expected to be most active on Twitter and other social media sites; the strong association of other hashtags on atrial fibrillation, heart disease and diabetes with the stroke hashtag draws attention to the strong relationship between these conditions as risk factors for stroke. “

However, he was surprised by the low volume of tweets relating to hypertension which he pointed out was “the most important risk factor for stroke.”

This paper was published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.

(Bundy JJ, et al. J NeuroIntervent Surg 2018;0:1–6. doi:10.1136/neurintsurg-2018-013877)

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