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Social networks – The future for health care delivery

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Author Info

  • Griffiths, Frances
  • Cave, Jonathan
  • Boardman, Felicity
  • Ren, Justin
  • Pawlikowska, Teresa
  • Ball, Robin
  • Clarke, Aileen
  • Cohen, Alan
Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    With the rapid growth of online social networking for health, health care systems are experiencing an inescapable increase in complexity. This is not necessarily a drawback; self-organising, adaptive networks could become central to future health care delivery. This paper considers whether social networks composed of patients and their social circles can compete with, or complement, professional networks in assembling health-related information of value for improving health and health care. Using the framework of analysis of a two-sided network – patients and providers – with multiple platforms for interaction, we argue that the structure and dynamics of such a network has implications for future health care. Patients are using social networking to access and contribute health information. Among those living with chronic illness and disability and engaging with social networks, there is considerable expertise in assessing, combining and exploiting information. Social networking is providing a new landscape for patients to assemble health information, relatively free from the constraints of traditional health care. However, health information from social networks currently complements traditional sources rather than substituting for them. Networking among health care provider organisations is enabling greater exploitation of health information for health care planning. The platforms of interaction are also changing. Patient–doctor encounters are now more permeable to influence from social networks and professional networks. Diffuse and temporary platforms of interaction enable discourse between patients and professionals, and include platforms controlled by patients. We argue that social networking has the potential to change patterns of health inequalities and access to health care, alter the stability of health care provision and lead to a reformulation of the role of health professionals. Further research is needed to understand how network structure combined with its dynamics will affect the flow of information and potentially the allocation of health care resources.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 12 ()
    Pages: 2233-2241

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:12:p:2233-2241

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    Related research

    Keywords: Health; Health care; Networks; Social networks; Complexity; Dynamics;

    References

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    1. Mead, Nicola & Bower, Peter, 2000. "Patient-centredness: a conceptual framework and review of the empirical literature," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(7), pages 1087-1110, October.
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    6. Epstein, Ronald M. & Franks, Peter & Fiscella, Kevin & Shields, Cleveland G. & Meldrum, Sean C. & Kravitz, Richard L. & Duberstein, Paul R., 2005. "Measuring patient-centered communication in Patient-Physician consultations: Theoretical and practical issues," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(7), pages 1516-1528, October.
    7. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
    8. Andrea Galeotti & Sanjeev Goyal, 2007. "The Law of the Few," Economics Discussion Papers 636, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    9. Raghuram Iyengar & Christophe Van den Bulte & Thomas W. Valente, 2011. "Opinion Leadership and Social Contagion in New Product Diffusion," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(2), pages 195-212, 03-04.
    10. Hokky Situngkir, 2004. "On Selfish Memes: culture as complex adaptive system," Computational Economics 0405001, EconWPA.
    11. Sillence, Elizabeth & Briggs, Pam & Harris, Peter Richard & Fishwick, Lesley, 2007. "How do patients evaluate and make use of online health information?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(9), pages 1853-1862, May.
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