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What are Ophthalmology Patients Asking Online? An Analysis of the Eye Triage Subreddit

Authors Mahjoub H, Prabhu AV, Sikder S

Received 31 August 2020

Accepted for publication 7 October 2020

Published 29 October 2020 Volume 2020:14 Pages 3575—3582


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Heba Mahjoub,1 Arpan V Prabhu,2 Shameema Sikder1,3

1School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2Department of Radiation Oncology, UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Little Rock, AR, USA; 3The Wilmer Eye Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA

Correspondence: Shameema Sikder
The Wilmer Eye Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA

Importance: Ophthalmology patients are seeking medical advice on social media websites like Reddit, where users are able to post comments and discuss issues pertaining to different topics that are organized in ‘subreddits’. Understanding which issues are most pertinent will guide ophthalmic providers in delivering more effective patient education.
Methods: This cross-sectional study assessed a systematic sample of the first 22 posts and their top 3 comments from each month since January 27th, 2019, the subreddit’s creation. Information was gathered from in October 2019 and analyzed in November 2019.
Main Outcomes: The posts were characterized by date and time, inclusion of an image, type, content, emotional tone, and number of upvotes and comments. The comments were categorized based on content, emotional tone, time of comment, and user background. Post and comment content codes were categorized in an iterative manner with differences resolved by author consensus. Categorical statistics were compiled.
Results: Two hundred posts and 456 comments were analyzed since the creation of r/eyetriage, a forum created exclusively for patients to seek advice from health-care professionals. Twenty-six (13%) of the total posts included an image. On average, comments received 1.76 ± 2.17 upvotes along with 4.50 ± 4.47 replies. The most common content codes among the posts were 42 (21.0%) seeking diagnoses, 23 (11.5%) surgical complications, and 13 (6.50%) alternative medication options. Eighty-two (41%) posts conveyed a clear emotional tone, most notably 11 (13.4%) with anxiety and 10 (12.2%) with worry. The top comments came from 165 (36.2%) self-identified patients, 151 (33.1%) optometrists, and 49 (10.8%) ophthalmologists. The top comment codes for replies included 158 (34.7%) with treatment advice, 70 (15.4%) with advice deferred to follow-up appointment with other health-care specialists, and 60 (13.2%) with sharing information.
Conclusions: Patients are asking ophthalmology-related questions on the Eye Triage subreddit, and they are more likely to receive information from other patients or optometrists than from self-identified ophthalmologists. When emotions were revealed, patients were often anxious and worried. Opportunities exist for ophthalmologists to take a more active role on this subreddit and help educate patients.

Keywords: Reddit, social media, patient education, ophthalmology, eye triage, subreddit

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