Omar Metwally, MD
Omar Metwally, MD

Poster 535 Understanding Public Attitudes Toward Colonoscopy on Twitter

Author Insight from Omar N. Metwally, MD, St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco

What’s new here and important for clinicians?

This is the first study of its kind to use social media to answer questions about patient perceptions of colonoscopy. Prior studies traditionally used formal surveys. Social media provides researchers with a vast amount of information than can be used to understand their patients. Where can we do a better job educating our patients? Which barriers stand between physicians and our ability to deliver the best care possible to our patients? Well-engineered natural language processing and machine learning algorithms can help physicians and scientists “listen” to millions of patients at the same time by extracting key information from online discourse. Patients increasingly turn to the internet not only to look up their doctors and educate themselves, but also to share their experience with the world. It’s time for us to listen.

What do patients need to know?

Physicians are trained to appraise information — that is, to assess how reliable a reference is. With so much health information available readily online, it’s important for patients to learn how to appraise information as well. A Twitter user’s visibility does not necessarily correlate with the reliability of his or her message, and a website’s search engine ranking does not correlate with how trustworthy the material is. Patients shouldn’t shy away from engaging their healthcare providers in conversation and seeking their advice on how they can educate themselves online and participate in discussion.

Despite predominantly negative attitudes toward colonoscopy on Twitter, the fact is that colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy saves lives! We need users with high social network visibility to help correct misperceptions about this important screening method.

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Author Contact Omar N. Metwally, MD

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