What are the information needs and concerns of individuals with Polycystic Kidney Disease? Results of an online survey using Facebook and social listening analysis

Publication Name

BMC Nephrology


Background: Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a hereditary disorder that has no cure and can result in end stage kidney failure. Searching for health information online and via social media is a common phenomenon in many medical conditions. However, no recent studies have documented the information needs, online behaviours, and concerns of people with PKD. The aim of this study was to explore the information needs of individuals with PKD and their carers by documenting (i) the information needs (ii) online information health seeking behaviours (iii) the perceived challenges of living with PKD and (iv) dietary concerns. Methods: A 17-item survey was constructed by undertaking a social listening analysis. This survey was then distributed via PKD related social media groups on Facebook. Seven groups distributed the survey with permission from the group owners. Open free text survey questions were analysed thematically using content analysis. Results: A total of 536 respondents completed the online survey (70.9 % female, 77 % aged 35–70, 70.2 % diagnosed more than 10 years ago). The major information need expressed by participants with PKD was for dietary information. Information regarding medications, medical management and symptom control were also desired. The overarching themes arising from the free text responses to the major challenge of living with PKD included ‘learning to navigate dietary ambiguities’; ‘managing social, psychological and emotional needs’; and ‘accepting an uncertain future’. In addition to a strong desire for practical and specific dietary information, participants expressed a need for more online information pertaining to management of fatigue, pain, complications and how to manage mental health. Online peer support was also highly regarded and desired. Conclusions: This study provides contemporary insights into the type of information desired by people with PKD. The results indicated that there was a strong desire for unambiguous information and guidance from health professionals to facilitate self-management, alleviate concerns, and address the complexities of living with Polycystic Kidney Disease. While diet is an important and frequently expressed need, there also remains a large demand for information on how to support psychological needs, and on medical management in order to support treatment decision making. Future work is required to develop specific, actionable and evidence-based resources for patients that are available online and through health professionals. Increased access to renal dietitians, peer support and additional training for health professionals could also improve patient-centered care and support self-management.

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



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