(This is the first in a series of blogs from the MDigitalLife Team of Summer Interns using the MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem to shed light on day to day topics of conversation.)

wine a dayWe’ve all heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and of course it makes sense that eating fruit on a daily basis is good for your health. Does that mean that drinking a glass of wine each day could be a healthy practice? We, the MDigitalLife interns, have decided to learn more about the health benefits and drawbacks of wine and also see just what online healthcare physicians have to say about the subject.

After diving into the MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem Database, we were surprised to find that there were more than 47,000 posts from health ecosystem stakeholders discussing the topic of wine online over the last year (July 18, 2015 – July 18, 2016) and of that group, 4,031 were from medical doctors. Using the registered physicians posting most frequently about wine as our source, we took a look at when the topic of wine has been most relevant online, what information about wine is being posted, and what are the top hashtags associated with those posts.

As far as the online conversation about wine is concerned, there has not been much discussion lately. Let’s face it – wine has been around for a really, really long time, so new information does not come out very often. That being said, studies about the health benefits of wine are still being conducted from time to time. Take, for example, the study
in the Annals of Internal Medicine released on October 13, 2015, which promoted drinking a glass of wine a day as a healthy practice for controlling Type 2 Diabetes. Shortly after this research was released, several medical professionals with established online social presences began to share and post about the data. The increase in conversational activity remained constant for several days following the study’s release.

So who are the major players discussing research articles like this one? Of the healthcare professionals in our database that have discussed wine, two names stood out to us. The first is Joel Kahn, a cardiologist based in Detroit and self-described TV personality. Included in Kahn’s 5,100 Twitter followers are nearly 130 medical professionals, making Dr. Kahn a strong driver of online health conversation. Dr. Kahn has posted wine-related content 34 times over the past year, sharing articles and content that promote drinking wine as a healthy practice. Included in his posts was an article discussing the positive results of the research conducted in October, 2015. While he was not the first, Kahn was one of the first ten healthcare professionals to post content about the new study.

The other significant name we identified in the Twittersphere surrounding the recently published study was Eric Topol, a well-known cardiologist with nearly 90,000 followers. As it turns out, Topol was one of the Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 1.39.27 PMprimary drivers behind the discussion surrounding the new research: Topol was one of the first five physicians to share information about the new study on social media and his tweet garnered 172 retweets and 103 likes, more than any other post on the subject. Dr. Topol’s initial tweet garnished retweets from 18 doctors in the Health Ecosystem, 5 in the US including social media maven @NeilFlochMD and 13 ExUS doctors. His tweet drove the most wine related conversation and played a key role in pushing the swell of conversation related to the Diabetes study. 

Based on our findings, it seems that the level of wine discussion amongst healthcare professionals is tied to the release of new health research concerning wine. Are there any other times when the online wine conversation sees a spike in activity? On National Drink Wine Day, of course. February 18, also known as National Drink Wine Day, consistently brings in large amounts of “on-wine” traffic amongst physicians and non-physicians alike. The hashtags #Wine, #NationalWineDay and #NationalDrinkWineDay also see a significant increase in use on these days.  Interestingly, the initial conversation spike in August was related to #LaughingWhileBlack which originated from an incident in Napa, California where ten black women and one white were kicked off of the Napa Valley Wine Train for laughing too loudly. Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 1.55.53 PM
While the topic may not be the most popular on social media, wine-related discussions remain fairly constant in the online world. Aside from the national holiday and times when new health-related information is released, the topic of wine sees a relatively consistent number of social media posts, with health ecosystem stakeholders publishing about 300-400 wine-related posts per month. Based on the information being published, it seems that medical professionals online tend to have a positive attitude towards drinking a glass of wine per day as a healthy practice. We can also safely assume that the conversation will pick back up the next time research is released, or when National Wine Day rolls around. So until February 18, feel free to raise a glass!

This blog post was prepared by the MDigitalLife Summer Intern team consisting of Brittany Pearson, Gray Alston and Bradley Snyder. Stay tuned to the blog for additional posts from the team in the coming weeks.