Dramatic Increases in Telehealth-Related Tweets during the Early COVID-19 Pandemic: A Sentiment Analysis

Healthcare (Basel). 2021 May 27;9(6):634. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9060634.


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a large expansion of telehealth, but little is known about user sentiment. Tweets containing the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” were extracted (n = 192,430) from the official Twitter API between November 2019 and April 2020. A random subset of 2000 tweets was annotated by trained readers to classify tweets according to their content, including telehealth, sentiment, user type, and relation to COVID-19. A state-of-the-art NLP model (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, BERT) was used to categorize the remaining tweets. Following a low and fairly stable level of activity, telehealth tweets rose dramatically beginning the first week of March 2020. The sentiment was overwhelmingly positive or neutral, with only a small percentage of negative tweets. Users included patients, clinicians, vendors (entities that promote the use of telehealth technology or services), and others, which represented the largest category. No significant differences were seen in sentiment across user groups. The COVID-19 pandemic produced a large increase in user tweets related to telehealth and COVID-19, and user sentiment suggests that most people feel positive or neutral about telehealth.

PMID:34071822 | DOI:10.3390/healthcare9060634