Evaluating Palliative Care Resources Available to the Public Using the Internet and Social Media

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Background:Accessible information about palliative care available to the public on the Internet is growing. We do not know whether this information is consistent with the current accepted definition of palliative care.Aim:To identify resources on the Internet and social media regarding palliative care and evaluate the information conveyed.Design:A cross-sectional study of “palliative care” search results.Setting:Top 10 Google websites, top 10 most viewed YouTube videos, and social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, were searched.Results:The most popular Google websites were mostly from national organizations promoting palliative care, whose definitions of palliative care consistently mention “quality of life” and “relief from symptoms and stress.” None of the websites mentioned children, and 77% cited palliative care as treatment for cancer with less focus on other diseases. No personal stories were included in Google websites, while 60% of YouTube videos included personal stories. Five main themes were generated from 266 YouTube video comments analyzed. The most common theme was emotionality, of which 91% were positive statements. Facebook and Twitter were mostly used by health-care professionals and not the public.Conclusions:Palliative care resources are mostly positive and consistent with the current definition of palliative care. Major Internet search engines such as Google and YouTube provide valuable insight into information the public receives about palliative care. Future development of Internet resources on palliative care should consider including children and emphasizing palliative care for all life-limiting illnesses.

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