Big Gaps in Digital Conversations About Cancer

June 1, 2013
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eHealth cancer

Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

A new healthcare social media project is tracking digital conversations about cancer and finding huge gaps in what’s being talked about online and what’s actually ailing America.

eHealth cancer

Originally published on MedCityNews.com.

A new healthcare social media project is tracking digital conversations about cancer and finding huge gaps in what’s being talked about online and what’s actually ailing America.

The MDigital Life Social Oncology Project posits that, as the amount of clinical information around cancer continues to grow (the project notes 23,459 PubMed-indexed academic papers on oncology last year), doctors, patients and advocates are increasingly turning to social channels to find and discuss information. That includes Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online forums and niche communities.

Yet little effort has been put into quantifying what 33 Charts’ Dr. Bryan Vartabedian calls this “new model of scientific exchange emerging around disease states” and what the report notes is a move toward digital advocacy.

Strategic communications firm WCG set out to do just that. It used data from its MDigital Life database, which tracks conversations of more than 3,000 verified physicians, plus social conversations during the American Society for Clinical Oncology Annnual Meeting in June, advocacy use of tools like Facebook, and other metrics to compile the report.

It found that breast cancer, the third-most deadly cancer in the U.S., generates more online chatter than the four other top five cancer killers in the U.S. combined. Lung and colon cancer, meanwhile, had relatively low conversation volumes on social media.

These gaps seem to be driven by patient interest; among doctors, breast cancer didn’t trump discussion of other cancer types. The analysis also found that celebrities, not research or clinical news, tend to create the most conversation around cancer online.

The firm’s deep dive into this data presents a new set of questions: What does the imbalance mean? Whose voices are not being heard? Does social awareness play into screening and disease detection?

The full report is worth a read. You can find it here.

[Chart from MDigital Life]