Boston Children’s Hospital is teaming up with pharm giant Merck to turn Twitter and Facebook into a new source for sleep health data. The two social network engines could help collect data about how many people in a population suffer from insomnia, and what they have in common with each other.
An recent news report states that John Brownstein, associate professor at Boston Children’s Hospital and project leader, will take publicly available data from Twitter and Facebook, including message content, frequency, user analytics, and demographic information to determine what social media users are likely suffering from sleep deprivation.
“This is sort of our foray to see how we can mine social media to get an understanding of the patient voice and potentially uncover some patterns around sleep deprivations that aren’t sort of apparent from more traditional data sources,” says Brownstein in the mobiHealth article by Jonah Comstock. “It represents a whole new class of observational data in health research, being able to characterize the burden across this massive sample size in a way that’s been never described before.”
Merck’s role in the study is mainly to fund the research. The pharmaceutical company is interested in the outcome, which Brownstein said will likely be both published in a journal and made available via an online tool.
“We are very interested in pushing the boundaries of the science of social media and to see this as an opportunity to better understand the patient voice, in this case, how people share information about sleep problems and their day-to-day impact on quality of life,” added Dr. Sachin Jain, chief medical information and innovation officer at Merck,” in a statement. “This data source could offer a powerful tool to monitor the sleep health of a city, state or country, and it may offer additional tools in the prevention or treatment of insomnia.”