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Internet search query analysis can be used to demonstrate the rapidly increasing public awareness of palliative care in the USA
  1. Sarah McLean1,
  2. Paul Lennon2 and
  3. Paul Glare1
  1. 1Department of Palliative Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Zuckermann Research Center, New York, New York, USA
  2. 2The Head and Neck Service of the Department of Surgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah McLean, Department of Palliative Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Zuckermann Research Center, 417 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10065, USA; smclean{at}sfh.ie

Abstract

Background A lack of public awareness of palliative care (PC) has been identified as one of the main barriers to appropriate PC access. Internet search query analysis is a novel methodology, which has been effectively used in surveillance of infectious diseases, and can be used to monitor public awareness of health-related topics.

Objectives We aimed to demonstrate the utility of internet search query analysis to evaluate changes in public awareness of PC in the USA between 2005 and 2015.

Methods Google Trends provides a referenced score for the popularity of a search term, for defined regions over defined time periods. The popularity of the search term ‘palliative care’ was measured monthly between 1/1/2005 and 31/12/2015 in the USA and in the UK.

Results Results were analysed using independent t-tests and joinpoint analysis. The mean monthly popularity of the search term increased between 2008–2009 (p<0.001), 2011–2012 (p<0.001), 2013–2014 (p=0.004) and 2014–2015 (p=0.002) in the USA. Joinpoint analysis was used to evaluate the monthly percentage change (MPC) in the popularity of the search term. In the USA, the MPC increase was 0.6%/month (p<0.05); in the UK the MPC of 0.05% was non-significant.

Discussion Although internet search query surveillance is a novel methodology, it is freely accessible and has significant potential to monitor health-seeking behaviour among the public. PC is rapidly growing in the USA, and the rapidly increasing public awareness of PC as demonstrated in this study, in comparison with the UK, where PC is relatively well established is encouraging in increasingly ensuring appropriate PC access for all.

Statistics from Altmetric.com

  • Received 10 May 2016.
  • Revision received 22 September 2016.
  • Accepted 4 January 2017.
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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval It was decided by the authors that ethical approval was not required for this discussion piece. No human participants or clinical data were involved in the analysis. Data were gathered from the publicly and freely accessible internet application, Google Trends.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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