Social Media Responses to Elective Surgery Cancellations in the Wake of COVID-19

Saieesh A. Rao, Mohan S. Ravi, Jeffrey W. Zhao, Cord Sturgeon, Karl Y. Bilimoria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To assess public response to cancellations of elective surgeries following the American College of Surgeons' (ACS) recommendation on March 13. METHODS: We queried text comments from Reddit, a social media platform and the fifth most popular website in the United States. Comments were manually reviewed to assess for relevance to elective surgery in the United States during the global coronavirus outbreak, whether the text was written by a healthcare worker (HCW), whether the user was based in the United States, and whether the text documented cancellations of surgery, expected cancellations of surgery, or surgery ongoing after the ACS announcement. Analysis of overall sentiment and negativity in comment text was performed using the Valence Aware Dictionary for sEntiment Reasoning (VADER), a validated natural language processing tool previously used in studies of health behaviors using social media. Non-parametric tests were used for subgroup comparisons based on posting date and characteristics identified during manual review. RESULTS: Following manual review, 1272 comments were included for analysis. Overall sentiment among non-HCWs became significantly more negative following the ACS announcement (P = 0.037). Overall sentiment did not significantly differ between HCWs and non-HCWs prior to the ACS announcement (P = 0.98), but non-HCW sentiment became significantly more negative than HCW sentiment after the announcement (P = 0.027). Negativity scores in posts describing cancellations were significantly higher among posts written by non-HCWs than HCWs (P = 0.028). CONCLUSIONS: Cancellation of elective surgeries had an adverse emotional impact on non-HCWs. This finding highlights the importance of access to elective surgery to patients' emotional well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e246-e248
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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