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Social media and palliative medicine: a retrospective 2-year analysis of global Twitter data to evaluate the use of technology to communicate about issues at the end of life
  1. Amara Callistus Nwosu1,
  2. Maria Debattista2,
  3. Claire Rooney3 and
  4. Stephen Mason1
  1. 1Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool (MCPCIL), University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust, Preston, UK
  3. 3The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Clinical Oncology, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amara Callistus Nwosu, Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute Liverpool (MCPCIL), University of Liverpool, Cancer Research Centre, 200 London Rd, Liverpool L3 9TA, UK; Twitter: @amaranwosu, amaranwosu{at}


Background Social media describes technological applications which are used to exchange information in a virtual environment. The use of social media is increasing, in professional and social contexts, on a variety of platforms such as Twitter; however, the scope and breadth of its use to discuss end-of-life care has not previously been reported.

Aims To determine the frequency, sentiment and trend of Twitter ‘tweets’ containing palliative care-related identifiers (hashtags) and/or phrases sent by users over a 2-year period.

Methods A 2-year retrospective analysis of Twitter posts (tweets), between the 1 August 2011 to 31 July 2013, using a social media analytics tool: TopsyPro. Thirteen search terms were identified and analysed for tweet volume, frequency, sentiment and acceleration.

Results A total of 683.5K tweets containing a combination of 13 palliative care terms were analysed. The tweet volume for all terms increased by 62.3% between 2011–2012 (262.5K) and 2012–2013 (421K). The most popular terms include ‘end-of-life’ (210K), #hpm (114K) and ‘palliative care’ (93.8K). Sentiment was high with 89% of tweets rated more positive than all other tweets sent on Twitter during this period. The term ‘Liverpool Care Pathway’ experienced the highest percentage increase in tweets (55% increase) reaching a peak in July 2013.

Conclusions A lot of discussion about palliative care is taking place on Twitter, and the majority of this is positive. Social media presents a novel opportunity for engagement and ongoing dialogue with public and professional groups.

  • Communication
  • Cultural issues
  • Supportive care
  • Education and training
  • Terminal care

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