Background

Google Trends proves to be a novel tool to ascertain the level of public interest in pathology and treatments. From anticipating nascent epidemics with data-driven prevention campaigns to identifying interest in cosmetic or bariatric surgery, Google Trends provides physicians real-time insight into the latest consumer trends.

Methods

We used Google Trends to identify temporal trends and variation in the search volume index of four groups of keywords that assessed practitioner-nomenclature inquiries, in addition to podiatric-specific searches for pain, traumatic injury, and common podiatric pathology over a 10-year period. The Mann-Kendall trend test was used to determine a trend in the series, and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to determine whether there was a significant difference between summer and winter season inquiries. Significance was set at P ≤ .05.

Results

The terms “podiatrist” and “foot doctor” experienced increasing Search Volume Index (SVI) and seasonal variation, whereas the terms “foot surgeon” and “podiatric surgeon” experienced no such increase. “Foot pain,” “heel pain,” “toe pain,” and “ankle pain” experienced a significant increase in SVI, with “foot pain” maintaining the highest SVI at all times. Similar results were seen with the terms “foot fractures,” “bunion,” “ingrown toenail,” and “heel spur.” These terms all experienced statistically significant increasing trends; moreover, the SVI was significantly higher in the summer than in the winter for each of these terms.

Conclusions

The results of this study show the utility in illustrating seasonal variation in Internet interest of pathologies today's podiatrist commonly encounters. By identifying the popularity and seasonal variation of practitioner- and pathology-specific search inquiries, resources can be allocated to effectively address current public inquiries. With this knowledge, providers can learn what podiatric-specific interests are trending in their local communities and market their practice accordingly throughout the year.

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