Global Interest in Telehealth During COVID-19 Pandemic: An Analysis of Google Trends™

Cureus. 2020 Sep 16;12(9):e10487. doi: 10.7759/cureus.10487.

ABSTRACT

Background Since the outbreak, healthcare systems across the globe are overcrowded with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients. To sustain the response towards the pandemic, many hospitals have adapted to virtual healthcare and telemedicine. Google™ has become the most widely used search engine over the years. Google Trends™ can be used to depict the public interest over a certain topic. The output of the Google Trends™ is displayed as relative search volume (RSV) which is the proportionate search volume regarding a specific topic comparative to the total search volume in a specific time and region. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between the daily reported number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths and the corresponding changes in Google Trends™ RSV of telehealth over six months. Methods A retrospective study was conducted from January 21, 2020 to July 21, 2020. About 17 countries that reported the total number of cases greater than 200,000 in the situation report of July 21, 2020 were selected to be a part of this study. The daily reported new cases and deaths globally and of the selected countries were extracted from the World Health Organization (WHO) situation reports. The combination of keywords used for obtaining the RSV data through Google Trends™ was “telehealth”, “telemedicine”, “mHealth”, and “eHealth”. These words were used with the “+” feature of Google Trends™ with “1/21/2020 to 7/21/2020” as time range, “all categories” for the category, and “web search” for the type of search. The worldwide RSV as well as the RSVs of the selected countries were obtained from the Google Trends™ website. Spearman’s correlation coefficient (ρ) was used to determine the strength of the relationship between new cases or deaths and RSVs related to telehealth. Results A positive fair correlation was established between the global interest in telehealth and the new cases (ρ=0.307, p-value<0.001) and deaths (ρ=0.469, p-value<0.001) reported worldwide. The United States of America (USA), India, and Bangladesh were found to have a positive fair correlation between the public interest regarding telehealth and the emerging new COVID-19 cases and deaths. The United Kingdom (UK) and Italy demonstrated a positive poor correlation between the rising new cases or deaths and RSV. Similar statistics were noted for the daily new cases of Chile. For Turkey, a positive fair correlation between new deaths and RSV while a positive poor correlation between new cases and RSV was observed. No significant correlation was observed for the rest of the selected countries. Conclusion This study highlights the steadily rising public interest in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine can provide the necessary remote consultation and healthcare for patients in the current situation. However, previous studies have shown that the majority of the countries are inadequately equipped for the digitization of the healthcare system. Therefore, it has become necessary to incorporate telemedicine into the healthcare system to combat any possible pandemic in the future.

PMID:33083187 | PMC:PMC7567313 | DOI:10.7759/cureus.10487