An Internet search analysis has shown increasing interest in atopic dermatitis (AD), researchers reported in a study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology.
The retrospective, longitudinal study analyzed AD-related online searches in Germany, focusing on seasonal trends, meteorological influences, and geographic differences, to identify potential environmental trigger factors and unmet needs to optimize treatment options and allocate health care resources.
The study authors used Google Ads Keyword Planner to evaluate Web search volume and search behavior regarding AD from January 2016 to December 2019.
A total of 1222 relevant keywords were identified with a total volume of 8,842,360 searches. Overall, the category “general” had the highest search volume with 5,051,800 (55.2%) search queries, followed by “localization” (1,344,760, 14.7%) and “therapy/information” (1,280,090, 13.9%). The category “therapy/information” had the highest number of keywords (638, 43.9%).
Overall, an average of 222 searches per 100,000 inhabitants per month were performed in Germany during the study period. The average number of searches per month was 148,257.5 in 2016 and increased to 239,982.5 in 2019.
Within the “therapy/information” category, the “skin care” subcategory had the largest percentage of searches (29.3%). The “home remedies” and “alternative medicine” subcategories accounted for 19.9% of the searches within the “therapy/information” category.
The mean monthly temperature in Germany (beta –8.136; 95% CI, –9.791, –6.482; P < .001) and the monthly sun duration (beta –0.345; 95% CI, –0.485, –0.206; P < .001) had a significant negative influence on search volume. All regions had seasonal fluctuations regarding search frequency and an increase in searches during the winter months.
The category “general” had the highest search volume in the 5 most populous cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, and Frankfurt), and “therapy/information” had the highest volume in all other cities.
The investigators noted that their study only analyzed the search volume of 1 search engine and only considered German-language Web search queries. Also, the search volume is provided and estimated by the search engine company without verification by users. In addition, searches are also conducted by physicians and medical students, who make up a higher percentage of the population in smaller university cities.
“The high search volume regarding therapy suggests a need for more information about the disease and its treatment options,” the investigators commented. “Furthermore, the influence of climate on search volume indicates higher medical need during the winter months, which should be considered in everyday clinical healthcare and medical guideline development. Combining seasonal adjustment of treatment plans with holistic therapies and patient education programs can optimize effective AD management and improve future allocation of healthcare resources.”
Mick A, Tizek L, Schielein M, Zink A. Can crowdsourced data help to optimize atopic dermatitis treatment? Comparing web search data and environmental data in Germany. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. Published online December 17, 2021. doi:10.1111/jdv.17875