Social Monitoring: How the FDA Mined Social Media to Gain Insights About Patients With Diabetes

Improving Diabetes Education Among Minorities

Researchers sought to discern what government organizations, patient advocacy organizations, and pharmaceutical companies share on social media, and whether this information is specific to racial or ethnic minorities. The data revealed several content themes:

• Awareness: 39.9% of tweets analyzed

• Diabetes management: 22.4%

• Risks associated with diabetes: 13.3%

• Diabetes prevention: 7.3%

• Other: 9.1%

“We found that little to no discussions on Twitter were specific to minority groups,” Dr Lee said. “Our research suggests that there is an opportunity to improve outreach to minority groups that is specific to their unique health needs.”

Researchers also concluded that there are gaps in their understanding of minority groups’ perceptions of the risks associated with FDA-regulated prescription drugs, their unique health needs, and level of health literacy.

To gain further insight, researchers mined a sample of Facebook posts from January 2017 to June 2017 that mentioned diabetes. After compiling a list of the top 50 most-liked posts for each month, the content was analyzed to elicit meaning from the collected posts. An extensive codebook was developed to guide this process. The data highlighted the importance of providing a patient-centered approach to care and individualizing care, according to researchers. More specifically, the data demonstrated the importance of:

• Educating patients on how diet and exercise can help them manage their diabetes.

• Improving patients’ awareness about comorbid conditions and teasing out related symptoms.

• Improving awareness about how the link between diabetes and the household environment can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

• Providing patient support and encouraging community engagement to promote healthier environments.

Although Dr Lee was encouraged by the enhanced patient insight she and her team were able to gain from social media posts, she cautions that social media data must be combined with other sources of data, including FDA archives, patient-focused drug development data, public docket comments, advisory council transcripts, focus groups, and listening sessions. According to Dr Lee, the findings of this study suggest that new data sources can increase the understanding of the patient perspective, particularly of vulnerable populations, and can increase confidence in the data that the FDA traditionally collects.

“Social media is a useful data source to gather relevant patient perspectives on barriers and may provide information from populations who may not utilize FDA sources,” Dr Lee concluded.

The FDA also conducted a social media listening pilot project on Reddit to gather data regarding opioid use. The results of this study are under manuscript review and cannot yet be shared publicly.

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Lee C. Gaining insight into the patient’s experience by harnessing the power of social listening and FDA archival data. Presented at: FDA Grand Rounds; May 9, 2019; Washington, DC.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag