New research suggests that Twitter may help predict and prevent severe asthma attacks in a community.

For the study, “The Twitter Asthma Pulse: Using Real-Time Twitter Data to Prospectively Predict Asthma Emergency Department Visits or Hospital Admissions in a Population,” researchers collected tweets posted between October 2013 and June 2014 and narrowed them down to the 3,810 that mentioned asthma attacks and that originated in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. During the same time period, incidence of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations across the region area were recorded.

When the number of asthma-related tweets increased in a given week, the researchers found, the number of asthma emergency department visits or hospitalizations increased proportionally during the following week.

“If the number of asthma-related tweets increased by 20 in a given week, for example, we would expect asthma-related emergency department visits or hospitalizations to increase by 12 in the following week,” said lead researcher Yolande Mfondoum Pengetnze, MD, medical director at Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI), a non-profit research and development corporation in Dallas. “This is an important finding that can change the way health departments and other healthcare stakeholders monitor asthma activity in a community.”

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