During the pandemic, millions of people connected with Twitter to share thoughts and feelings about the pandemic…and their health.

Three mega-trends bubbled up on the platform for health — telemedicine and virtual care, broadband access, and mental health, discussed in a Birdseye Report Industry Deep Dive into Health from Brandwatch, partnering with Twitter.

For this report, Brandwatch utilized only English-language public Twitter data. Brandwatch collated and analyzed tweets between January 1st 2019 and November 20 2021, that mentioned any of the following phrases: telemedicine, telehealth, virtual care, digital medicine, digimedicine, mental health, doom scrolling, trauma dumping, and meeting fatigue.

Tweets related to “broadband” were noted within the telemedicine/virtual health Twitter streams.

First, what did Twitter reveal about telemedicine? Twitter mentions of the topic “soared in March 2020,” the report explains, compared with about 365,000 mentions in total for the 14 months preceding March 2020.

Based on Tweets, telemedicine (and its synonyms) emerged as a new normal for health care visits during the first year of the pandemic, expected to be a continuing Twitter subject in 2022.

“Broadband” became more than a Band-Aid, Brandwatch observes, as connectivity became an on-ramp to access health care services during the pandemic. The report tells of a re-tweet from the Office of the Second Gentleman (i.e., Doug Imhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris), who recommended easier Internet access for all Americans.

Mental health was the third key trend emerging from Twitter based on health-related tweets in the pandemic. Growth in monthly “mental health” mentions grew nearly 50% from 2019 to 2021, Brandwatch found. Several driving factors bolstered the #mentalhealth hashtag coming out of popular culture and sports — such as the swimmer Michael Phelps expanding his relationship with Talkspace, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ revelation about the “twisties, and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry being quite public about their respective mental health challenges, among many other public figures’ coming out of the anxiety-and-depression closet.

Tweeters also expanded their use of new phrases like doom scrolling, trauma dumping, and meeting fatigue in 2019 into 2020.

And, many tags related to mental health became well-used, such as #MentalHealthMatters, #MentalHealthAwareness, #WellBeing, and #BellLetsTalk from the campaign addressing stigma.

It is ironic, and Brandwatch calls this out in the report, that the screens providing relief in the pandemic (say for work, social connection, and entertainment) were also a contributing factor to collective mental health erosion during the public health crisis.

Together, the three big trends can inform health care industry stakeholders’ plans, services, and technology innovations. Brandwatch suggests several tactics, including:

  • Applying better user-centered and experience design
  • Adopt sound security protocols and tech
  • Educate the workforce on these issues
  • Stay abreast of health consumers’ conversations via social media to stay agile and up-to-the-minute on what people are thinking….and feeling.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Consumers’ taking control of their well-being — physical and mental health, alike — is one of the key trends in the 2022 consumer forecast from GWI (GlobalWebIndex).

The pandemic motivated more consumers for self-care, mind-body-and-spirit — and enabled often through digital tools (“digi-health” in the portmanteau of GWI’s report). GWI notes that telehealth visits broke records in the pandemic era, with digital enabling more people to access mental health services at scale — naming Headspace Health and Alan Mind services focusing on employee well-being.

Self-care is a necessity, not an indulgence, GWI asserts, recognizing that, “Mental health hasn’t just become a personal priority, but a business one too,” the report says.

The last chart comes out of the GWI paper, detailing consumers’ developing their own “health toolkits” for both mental and physical health. For example, the top five actions to manage physical health were to eat healthier and exercise regularly (for about one-half of people), and getting more sleep (for 41% of health consumers).

For mental health, key toolkit tactics for self-care were to exercise and move more (42%), do hobbies and enjoyable activities (for 39%), and speaking to friends and family about their concerns (among 29% of people).

Smartly, GWI calls out health care costs and affordability — in the “mind, body, digi-health” section of the report — recognizing that financial health can be a super stress for U.S. patients. “While digital health won’t be the magic cure,” GWI writes, “they offer an alternative way of receiving quicker, convenient care especially when hospitals are so overwhelmed.”

That goes for access to tele-mental health care services, too, able to scale distance, convenience, access, and taboos that many consumers face in their care journeys.

That’s one reason Michael Phelps explains why he’s so committed to this market-space these days.

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