Who sets the health agenda in the UK and globally? An exploration of the early #FakeNews era

It is important for healthcare workers to understand how health news is reported. Social media provides ways to understand who makes and shares health stories, the potential audience, and the stories themselves. Back in January 2017 Prof Chris Oliver and I prepared a research paper on this topic which we submitted to two international medical journals in February and March 2017. It was not accepted for publication – perhaps it was too early for this important topic.

I came across the paper again recently when working through files as I prepare to move job (February 2019). The timing of this analysis – just at the point that Trump acquired the keys to the White House, and just when Chris and I were trying to work out what social network analysis reports could tell us – makes this a potentially important piece of work, so Chris and I have decided to share the paper in a way made possible by social media – a blog. Download the full paper here.

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Monitoring health related activity on Twitter: Tips for individuals, organisations, campaigns and conference organisers

Over the past year I have been learning and adapting methods for studying and summarising social media activity around health conferences and awareness campaigns.

This blog ties up that work, bringing the key pieces of work together in one place. My hope is that other people and organisations can use these techniques to plan, monitor and evaluate their own social media activities.

I am taking a sabbatical over the next few months, returning to the front line of clinical work in a care of the elderly unit in a large teaching hospital. I will not be able to extract and analyse tweets between April and July (inclusive). I will continue to monitor selected campaigns that relate to the clinical attachment (eg #EndPJParalysis and #EndPJParalysis which recently announced a 70 day campaign, beginning 17 April 2018).

This blog lists the main learning points from my activities over the past year, with links to the relevant blogs.

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How to run social media for a health conference: planning, tweeting and summarising

This blog takes a real life example (the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh Public Health symposium 2017 – #rcpePH17) to illustrate ways to use social media in planning, running and summarising the outputs of the conference. You can also read a PDF version of this blog. Read a more recent application of some of these techniques to study infectious disease conferences in a Media Watch article for Lancet Infectious Diseases (February 2018).

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Social network analysis: quirks, pitfalls and biases

This is the latest in a series of blogs exploring the use of social media in public health and healthcare. The blogs have used social network analysis to study awareness raising campaigns (#VaccinesWork, National Clean Air Day, Antibiotic  Awareness Week 2016), conferences (European Public Health conference 2016, Quality2017), and key influencers (exploring whether the 85:3% rule applies to tweeting about health and healthcare).

You can also read and download the blog in a PDF.

This blog attempts to share some key methodological pitfalls in planning, conducting and sharing the results of a social network analysis. It is structured around 5 main ideas:

  1. Finding a needle in a haystack
  2. Filtering out the minnows and sticklebacks
  3. Working out the size of pond for the big fish
  4. Slicing out the spam
  5. The ones that got away – and how to include them in the final analysis

The work has reminded me of work on cell culture when I was a medical student: I worked in a lab in Dallas, Texas, for 4 months November 1994-February 1995, studying adrenal tumour cells. This was my first time working abroad, and I was a little star struck, working in Parkland Hospital, famous as the hospital that treated JFK on 22 November 1963, and home to Nobel Prize winners including Alfred Gilman. My research did not reach such heights. Results were disappointing and unpredictable, week after week, and I was running out of time. Research is marked as much by its “failures” as its “successes”; both are an essential part of learning, though the stumbles are shared less than the leaps forward.

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Some thoughts on digital innovations in Public Health

Between 25 and 28 January 2018 thirty teams of healthcare workers, tech specialists and entrepreneurs will work together to develop new digital innovations in Public Health in a Product Forge hackathon (follow the tweets over the weekend using #PublicHealthPF). I have been asked to provide some thoughts in introduction. Preparation will be important for all participants, so here is my initial advice under 4 headings. You can view the presentation that I have produced for the event here (I also plan to record this as a short “film”).

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#EuroTestWeek and #HIVTestWeek

During November 2017 there was a focus on HIV testing across Europe:

Both campaigns asked me to map the tweets over the course of the week. I am not associated with or funded by either campaign. I am doing this out of interest, as a Public Health doctor, in personal time. As for previous analyses written up on the ScotPublicHealth blog I am interested to see how different campaigns unfold. Of particular interest here is how tweeters observe the geographical “boundaries” of the campaigns – for UK, Europe, worldwide. I am also interested to see whether the tweeters and tweet content differ between the different campaigns and across the week. As ever, the ideal tweet grabs attention (image), shares information (in image and text, but also linking to further information using  a URL), and links to others (by mentioning other users/ tagging others in an image, and a hashtag).

I looked at the campaigns in a number of ways:

  1. Simple counts of Twitter activity (number of tweeters, tweets, estimated views of these tweets) – the hashtags are under review by the Symplur healthcare hashtags website but if accepted information will be available for the full period of the campaign. Followthehashtag also provides estimates, breaking “tweets” down into tweets, replies and retweeter, plus an estimate of “audience”.
  2. Geographical maps of tweeters/ retweeters using the Followthehashtag website: to look at spread of the message across the world (limit typically 1,500 tweets so will only be able to capture snapshots of larger campaigns).
  3. Social network analysis using NodeXL, looking at connections (people tweeting using the hashtags, retweeting or replying to these tweets, or mentioned in the tweets). This tool extracts up to 18,000 tweets and it is possible to combine extracts to look at longer period.
  4. Summarising top content using my “top tweets” analysis of NodeXL extracts – see examples of this approach on my Storify page.

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Hairmyres Hospital Allergy Awareness Week, 13th -17th Nov 2017: #AllergyHM17

This is the first “guest blog” on the ScotPublicHealth site. Fran Kerr, Antimicrobial Pharmacist, provides the background to Hairmyres Hospital Allergy Awareness Week (#AllergyHM17), both in the hospital and on social media. Social media metrics (NodeXL map, and other tools that Fran has access to) will follow during the week.

If you’d like to contribute a blog to the ScotPublicHealth site then please get in touch with Dr. Graham Mackenzie, Consultant in Public Health Medicine.

The aim of Hairmyres Hospital Allergy Awareness Week (#AllergyHM17) is to improve assessment and documentation of patient medication allergies to reduce harm associated with the administration of medication to which the patient is allergic.

figure 1
Daily ‘gold star ‘medals

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World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017

World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017 runs 13-19 November 2017. European Antibiotic Awareness Day in on 18 November every year. Antibiotic resistance and antibiotic awareness are important public health topics. The World Health Organisation lists prevention and control measures for different sectors including individuals, policy makers, health professionals, healthcare industry and agriculture sector.

As previously discussed on this page antibiotic awareness campaigns attract a lot of tweets – professional and public facing. However it’s not clear which hashtag to use to tweet, or to search for during the week. This blog will be updated throughout the week to help you decide which hashtags to use and search for. I will summarise the top content using “big data” methods, listing the most retweeted tweets across the different hashtags.

The weekend before the campaign I ran a series of “follow the hashtag” searches (to map tweets geographically, and estimate audience) for different hashtags, and three large NodeXL social network maps. Links to these analyses, and top tweets from the NodeXL analyses are provided below. I also produced a graphic of my own to provide a personal touch that I could also track during the course of the week.

Final graphic for waaw 2017 (text tidied up_upload)

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Who are the top 3% of influencers on health/ healthcare on Twitter? (work in progress)

NOTE (13 September 2018): Since writing this blog Storify has been discontinued. I have therefore moved (I hope) all the summaries mentioned below to another site (Wakelet). I will need to update all the Storify links accordingly.

Introduction: ScotPublicHealth work has always had a double purpose – exploring both public health and social media techniques. This post uses social media – and social network analysis (using NodeXL) in particular – to document tweeting about health/ healthcare. It looks at top influencers at UK and global level.

I have developed an interest in social network analysis over the past year. The method allows us to look at interactions between Twitter users. It also provides a complete extract of tweets between stated time limits that can be used for further analysis in Excel.

Back in July 2017 Helen Bevan’s team at NHS Horizons contacted me to see whether these methods could be used to identify the top 3% influencers around health/ healthcare tweets. I set out to refine the social network analysis methods that I had been applying to simple Twitter searches (eg around a public health awareness campaign or conference, with tweeting around a single hashtag) to answer this rather more complex question.

3 85 question

There were 3 main purposes to this work:

Purpose Uses
To attempt to answer the 85%:3% question and identify the key influencers Help these tweeters understand their reach and influence

Identify other influential health/ healthcare community who may be creating useful content

To refine and describe the methodology Allow others to repeat and refine the approach and apply to other questions

To allow peer review

To summarise the type of content identified To understand the type of content that is achieving success, and the tweeters generating that content

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