Objective: To explore internet search trends data as a unique resource for monitoring online health information-seeking behavior. We utilized Google trends to sample population interest and search inquiries into surgical treatment options of kidney stones, and we examined the relative frequency of searches across the United States.
Methods: Google trends was queried via the Google Insights for Search (http://google.com/trends) using terms related to kidney stone surgeries from 2011 to 2017. "Kidney stone surgery" was identified to be the most common term. The search volume index graph for the U.S. was recorded as well as regional distribution and related queries. For specific surgical treatment modalities, the following medical terminology was used: percutaneous nephrolithotomy, extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, and laser lithotripsy. Each query was then compared and analyzed to assess changes in the interest in these search terms over time.
Results: The research trends for the search "kidney stone surgery" as well as specific surgical modalities remained constant over time. extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy had the highest search volume index and laser lithotripsy had the lowest. The top 5 US states with greatest search volume was Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina, whereas the top 5 metropolitan regions were Atlanta, Tampa, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Boston.
Conclusion: Google trends data is a useful tool to analyze online health information-seeking behavior. Despite an increase in stone prevalence over the past decade, search rates have remained relatively constant. High relative search volume was seen from states within and outside the traditional stone belt, suggesting a possible changing trend.
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