AUA 2012 - Using social media to gauge reaction to the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) report: Twitter as an investigative tool - Session Highlights

ATLANTA, GA USA (UroToday) - Twitter, a microblogging service with over 200 million users, has been used to predict stock market fluctuations, monitor disease spread, and foment political revolutions.

This group of investigators used Twitter to understand public sentiment and media coverage of the recent USPSTF report on prostate cancer screening.

This group used a mixed methods study design to extract frequency and sentiment data from publicly available tweets. Searching for “prostate cancer,” they analyzed 2,185 consecutive tweets in a 20 hour period beginning two hours prior to the first media announcement of the USPSTF report. They developed a coding system to assess sentiment expressed in tweets and associated links, which demonstrated agreement between two independent reviewers coding a random sample of 150 tweets.

In the hour of the first tweeted article, there was a 47% rise in prostate cancer tweet rate and a 19% rise in the following hour, before a return to baseline. Of all prostate cancer-related tweets, 1272 (58%) focused on the USPSTF’s report. Users tweeting had a median 6,035 previous tweets and 602 followers. No opinion was expressed in 1,149 (90%) tweets: 1,004 only reported the event, 73 expressed controversy or initiated discussion, 28 used humor, 26 expressed shock or confusion, and 22 drew special attention to the report. Of the 123 (10%) expressing an opinion, 24% were anti-screening and 76% were pro-screening. Working links about the report were present in 1,023 tweets, from which they identified 51 unique stories: 73% were neutral, 20% were anti-screening, and 8% were pro-screening. However, because not all articles were tweeted at the same frequency, 600 (59%) links were neutral, 389 (38%) were anti-screening, and 34 (3%) were pro-screening. Anti-screening tweets and links reached a total of 31,345 and 1,066,337 followers, respectively, while pro-screening tweets and links reached 186,744 and 113,208 followers, respectively.

Systematic analysis of Twitter feeds posted shortly after the USPSTF’s announcement demonstrated an outpouring of user sentiment in favor of PSA testing. Policy makers who rely on public opinion may look increasingly to social media outlets such as Twitter to gauge public sentiment, sway attitudes, and, ultimately, influence policy.

Presented by Vinay Prabhu, Ted Lee, Herbert Lepor, John H. Holmes, and Danil Makarov at the American Urological Association (AUA) Annual Meeting - May 19 - 23, 2012 - Georgia World Congress Center - Atlanta, GA USA

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