Using Social Media to Elucidate the Unmet Needs and Support Networks of People with Brain Injury

Aaron Lawson McLean, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust & University of Cambridge

Social Media to elucidate the unmet needs_Aaron Lawson McLeanWe aim to address several key questions about how users of social media discuss brain injury online.
Patients increasingly turn to the Internet for information on medical conditions pertinent to them, often researching clinical developments and treatment options. In recent years, an online patient community has arisen alongside the rapidly expanding world of social media. One social media platform, called Twitter, has become an important online tool for patients. Twitter is now considered to play an important role in the modern social community of online patients.

These online patients are likely to include those with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). ABI from both traumatic causes (such as falls and road traffic accidents) and non-traumatic causes (such as lack of oxygen and brain tumours) is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Online discussion about ABI may reveal patient insights, perspectives and experiences that the doctors who care for these patients and researchers are not aware of.

Our study involves the creation of a large database of Twitter messages, passively collected over several months. This large volume of messages can then be analysed to address specific questions. Key questions answered by this study will include:

1. What is the frequency of tweeting about ABI?

2. What are the characteristics
of users who tweet about ABI?

3. What is the reach of messages about ABI, and what is the pattern of discourse about ABI on the Twitter platform?

4. What is the content of messages about ABI?