Doing Research in Healthcare Social Media

All of us want to make healthcare better.

We believe that better healing models can be created from better understanding. Better understanding comes from the processing of knowledge, and knowledge is based on data. A small but growing piece of this data comes from healthcare conversations taking place on social media.

A willingness to listen is all that is required for the process of improvement to begin. Without a willingness to listen, the connecting of dots, the creation of relationships, the building of trust, the process of change and healing can not take place.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the relationship between patient and provider, and much focus has already been given to the need for listening in that intimate circle. But it is not the only place where personal stories, deep knowledge and data are being shared. A very large data set of public healthcare conversations have emerged as the basis for a growing number of research projects over the last couple of years.

I believe that one of the greatest forces for good in this area is the flattening of healthcare, the process of breaking down traditional boundaries. Those who stand to gain the most from this process are those whose voices have been underrepresented. Among these are patients and caregivers, and whatever can lift those voices up, I’m for.

Many share the view that social media is changing healthcare in dramatic ways, empowering patients and caregivers by removing superfluous hierarchies. Much of that is happening in the public space and is recorded in these data sets. Therefore all research conducted on this data can only further strengthen their voices.

This is why it’s been so exciting to have had over 60 individual researchers with access to our research platform Symplur Signals over the last few months. Combined they have had access to 249 healthcare topics and 76,257,078 healthcare related tweets. They’ve conducted research in many diverse subjects including mental health, family medicine, prescription opioids, self-harm, diabetes, information dissemination, medical education, obesity, vaccination, and health policy as part of Stanford Medicine X | Symplur Signals Research Challenge. This partnership with Stanford Medicine X was designed to spark scholarly research activity in healthcare social media, with the implicit understanding that this can only be a benefit for patients. Stanford Medicine X saw the fruit of their work for patients a few days ago at the White House.

We’re incredibly excited for this emerging area of research and for how it may benefit us all by further understanding.

For all the researchers participating, thank you for your hard work!

Symplur - @symplur

Symplur creates products purpose-built for healthcare to make the move from insight to action as simple as possible.

6 Responses to “Doing Research in Healthcare Social Media”

  1. Meredith Gould

    Symplur has been a gift and blessing to so many people in and around healthcare, at every sector and level of healthcare — including people who don’t typically use words like “gift and blessing” to describe social science. Grateful for all you do and inspire.

  2. Gregg Masters (@2healthguru)

    well it takes a community and i’ve been registering my share of conferences…. agree with MG the Symplur healthcare hashtags project has been an amazing community resource. not familiar with signals per se…. thought many on that bandwagon.

  3. Matt Lewis


    I’m connected with Heidi Allen on LI and am interested in exploring Symplur for some medical affairs research projects my global medical communications agency is leading.

    The agency is L&M Healthcare Communications, and I am SVP, Scientific Strategy.

    I look forward to hearing from you.



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  5. Dr Damian Fogarty

    Hear hear! I was introduced to Symplur and have now set up a number of hashtags for conferences etc(#IrishNeph, #IrishTx). It has enabled me to persuade others to use twitter in particular for this most important academic aspect of conferences and leaning. One colleague yesterday told me that he followed a lot of the conference using twitter as he was on call at the hospital and could not make it in person. Would be pleased to help more with this esp in the Symplur Signals work. Well done Audun and colleagues @Symplur.

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