The Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) model estimates that 6.1% of over-16-year-olds in the United Kingdom are living with stage 3-5 CKD. CKD is characterised by damage to the kidneys resulting in reduced long-term functionality. The disease is often associated with other conditions, with conversations held between healthcare professionals (HCPs) online reflecting this. Twitter provides valuable insights into HCP discussions; here we dive into the data to identify the topics discussed among HCPs in the UK.
HCPs’ key topics of discussion
Discussions amongst HCPs about CKD online are diverse and varied, however they can be loosely categorised into 3 fields: research; the relationship between CKD and other conditions; and treatment options. UK Kidney Week 2016 (UKKW2016), an annual conference that seeks to discuss, encourage and celebrate the latest research within the field of nephrology provided an opportunity for HCPs to debate the most recent developments in that field. A major theme of HCPs’ conversations centred on the relationship between CKD and other conditions: chronic Kidney disease can be caused by and has implications on other conditions.
— Jyoti Baharani (@renalpages) November 2, 2015
This tweet by Dr Jyoti Baharani, a consultant nephrologist at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, is a key example of the popular trend amongst HCPs to discuss CKD alongside other conditions such as diabetes; how they interact with one another and the effects this has on patients.
In our analysis of HCP conversations, we found that although HCPs do talk about medicinal treatments for the management of CKD, they do not differentiate between brands or specific drug types instead focusing on general requisites of a number of treatment types. For example, the contraindications ascribed with heartburn medication in CKD sufferers.
Although medical related discussion forms the largest singular segment of the treatment conversation, this is not highly focused. It is telling that around 65% of conversation is related to dialysis or alternative treatment types (diet and exercise). When looking at what HCPs are discussing about treatments as a whole, it is clear to see that HCPs advocate healthy living and lifestyle changes. A healthy lifestyle has been attributed not only to alleviating some of the symptoms faced by CKD patients but also in the prevention of the disease. Concerns of HCPs revolved around raising awareness of the benefits that exercise can have and how this combined with a focused diet can greatly improve the lives of CKD patients.
SJSMS: “Exercise as medicine” in chronic kidney disease: Exercise and physical activity are increasingly beco… https://t.co/rneD6b7MvS
— Jonathan Bloomfield (@SportScienceNI) June 24, 2016
Jonathan Bloomfield, PhD who specialises in sports physiology demonstrated his position by posting an article detailing the benefits of healthy living to CKD patients.
A prominent voice in the CKD discussion, Sarah Brewer, a health practitioner had plenty to say on the issue. However, the discussion is also taken up by many other healthcare professions as this topic is clearly not exclusive to dieticians and health practitioners.
— Dr Sarah Brewer (@DrSarahB) June 18, 2016
— Dr Sarah Brewer (@DrSarahB) May 25, 2016
What can we learn?
Social Media conversations can provide valuable evidence on the concerns and interests of healthcare professionals (HCPs). By looking at what they are discussing online, it provides a helpful window into the issues that HCPs are facing in real time. By breaking down information gathered using CREATION Pinpoint to provide insights into the thoughts and concerns of HCPs with regards to Chronic Kidney Disease we have seen that HCPs are interested in associated conditions, treatment options and the benefits of healthy living.