Twitter offers valuable insights into the experience of MRI patients
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be a stressful experience for many people, but clinicians have few ways to track the thoughts and feelings of their patients regarding this procedure. While the social networking site Twitter is known for breaking news and celebrity tweets, it may also prove to be a valuable feedback tool for medical professionals looking to improve the patient experience, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences.
Johnathan Hewis, an investigator from Charles Sturt University in Australia, analysed 464 tweets related to MRI over the course of one month and found that patients, their friends and family members were sharing their thoughts and feelings about all aspects of the procedure through the microblogging site. Tweets were categorised into three themes: MRI appointment, scan experience, and diagnosis.
Because Twitter is so ubiquitous, it can provide crucial new insights to which practitioners would otherwise not be privy. In the study, patients expressed anxiety about many aspects of the process, including a lot of stress over the possibility of bad news.
“The findings of this study indicate that anticipatory anxiety can manifest over an extended time period and that the focus can shift and change along the MRI journey,” explained Hewis. “An appreciation of anxiety related to results is an important clinical consideration for MRI facilities and referrers.”
The study found that tweets encapsulated patient thoughts about many other parts of the procedure including the cost, the feelings of claustrophobia, having to keep still during the scan, and the sound the MRI machine makes.
Not all the tweets were about stress; many friends and family members expressed sentiments of support including prayers and offering messages of strength. Some patients used Twitter to praise their healthcare team or give thanks for good results. Others spoke about the fact they liked having an MRI because it gave them some time to themselves or offered them a chance to nap.
An unexpected discovery of the examination preparation process was the ‘MRI gown selfie’, revealed Hewis. “Fifteen patients tweeted a self-portrait photograph taken inside the changing cubicle while posing in their MRI gown/scrubs. Anecdotally, the ‘MRI gown selfie’ seemed to transcend age.”
With such a broad reach, social networks like Twitter offer medical practitioners the opportunity to access previously unavailable information from their patients, which can help them continuously improve the MRI experience.
Hewis, J. (2015) Do MRI patients Tweet? Thematic analysis of patient tweets about their MRI experience. J. Med. Imaging Radiation Sci. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jmir.2015.08.003” \t