JMIR Medical Informatics (Jun 2020)

Diabetes Self-Management in the Age of Social Media: Large-Scale Analysis of Peer Interactions Using Semiautomated Methods

  • Myneni, Sahiti,
  • Lewis, Brittney,
  • Singh, Tavleen,
  • Paiva, Kristi,
  • Kim, Seon Min,
  • Cebula, Adrian V,
  • Villanueva, Gloria,
  • Wang, Jing

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8, no. 6
p. e18441


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BackgroundOnline communities have been gaining popularity as support venues for chronic disease management. User engagement, information exposure, and social influence mechanisms can play a significant role in the utility of these platforms. ObjectiveIn this paper, we characterize peer interactions in an online community for chronic disease management. Our objective is to identify key communications and study their prevalence in online social interactions. MethodsThe American Diabetes Association Online community is an online social network for diabetes self-management. We analyzed 80,481 randomly selected deidentified peer-to-peer messages from 1212 members, posted between June 1, 2012, and May 30, 2019. Our mixed methods approach comprised qualitative coding and automated text analysis to identify, visualize, and analyze content-specific communication patterns underlying diabetes self-management. ResultsQualitative analysis revealed that “social support” was the most prevalent theme (84.9%), followed by “readiness to change” (18.8%), “teachable moments” (14.7%), “pharmacotherapy” (13.7%), and “progress” (13.3%). The support vector machine classifier resulted in reasonable accuracy with a recall of 0.76 and precision 0.78 and allowed us to extend our thematic codes to the entire data set. ConclusionsModeling health-related communication through high throughput methods can enable the identification of specific content related to sustainable chronic disease management, which facilitates targeted health promotion.