Overview: In the wake of increased opioid use in the U.S., the NIH’s National Center for Integrative and Complementary Health (NCCIH) wanted to understand how patients and healthcare providers communicate about pain management and treatment plans, to support increased education and improved health outcomes.

Approach: Working with the NCCIH, JPA developed a peer-reviewed study examining the online relationships between patients affected by pain and health care providers, leveraging our GRETEL® research platform. GRETEL includes an in-depth view into social media networks, which are increasingly becoming the ultimate shortcut to understanding the relationships, language gaps, and resources used by key healthcare stakeholders.

The study, “What Twitter Teaches us about Patient-Provider Communication on Pain,” published in December 2019 in the journal PLoS One, includes a social network analysis of about 10,000 leading voices within the pain management community on Twitter.

Results: The research provides insights on the relationships, discussion trends and online sources of health information among patients and providers.

Within the study, we found a lack of engagement between pain patients and providers, compared to patient-provider interactions within oncology, which we leveraged as a benchmark. These gaps in communication may create roadblocks to shared decision-making opportunities around pain management. To address this issue, our research identified influential stakeholders who are well-positioned to build greater patient-provider connections.

The study found that patients lack a central source of information on pain management, indicating a need for a new evidence-based resource hub to support the patient community. We also identified several existing health information sources that are being shared by patients and providers, which may be leveraged to provide pain education.

An overview of study results, which are available for download, were initially published as a poster at the International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health (ICIMH) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

For a free download of the study, published as a poster at the International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health (ICIMH) Conference, complete this form.

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