Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease estimated to affect more than 6 million adults in the United States. It poses a significant public health problem and contributes to rising health care costs, affecting people’s quality of life and ability to work. Previous research showed that nontreatment and undertreatment of patients with psoriasis remain a significant problem. Perspectives of patients toward seeking psoriasis treatment are understudied. Social media offers a new data source of user-generated content. Researchers suggested that the social network Twitter may serve as a rich avenue for exploring how patients communicate about their health issues.
The objective of this study is to conduct a content analysis of Twitter posts (in English) published by users in the United States between February 1, 2016, and October 31, 2018, to examine perspectives that potentially influence the treatment decision among patients with psoriasis.
User-generated Twitter posts that include keywords related to psoriasis will be analyzed using text classifiers to identify themes related to the research questions. We will use Symplur Signals, a health care social media analytics platform, to access the Twitter data. We will use descriptive statistics to analyze the data and identify the most prevalent topics in the Twitter content among people with psoriasis.
This study is supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Science through a Clinical and Translational Science Award award. Study approval was obtained from the institutional review board at the University of Southern California. Data extraction and cleaning are complete. For the time period from February 1, 2016, to October 31, 2018, we obtained 95,040 Twitter posts containing terms related to “psoriasis” from users in the United States published in English. After removing duplicates, retweets, and non-English tweets, we found that 75.51% (52,301/69,264) of the psoriasis-related posts were sent by commercial or bot-like accounts, while 16,963 posts were noncommercial and will be included in the analysis to assess the patient perspective. Analysis was completed in Summer 2020.
This protocol paper provides a detailed description of a social media research project including the process of data extraction, cleaning, and analysis. It is our goal to contribute to the development of more transparent social media research efforts. Our findings will shed light on whether Twitter provides a promising data source for garnering patient perspective data about psoriasis treatment decisions. The data will also help to determine whether Twitter might serve as a potential outreach platform for raising awareness of psoriasis and treatment options among patients and implementing related health interventions.