Feeling Blue? Go Online: An Empirical Study of Social Support among Patients

Information Systems Research. 25(4) 690-709, 2014

39 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2010 Last revised: 4 Mar 2018

Lu (Lucy) Yan

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Date Written: May 1, 2014

Abstract

In this paper, we investigate whether social support exchanged in an online healthcare community benefits patients’ mental health. We propose an inhomogeneous Partially Observed Markov Decision Process (POMDP) model to examine the latent health outcomes of online health community members. The transition between different health states is modeled as a probability function that incorporates different forms of social support that patients exchange via discussion board posts. We find that patients gain benefits from learning from others and that their participation in the online community helps them to improve their health and to better engage in their disease self-management process. Our results also reveal differences in the influence of various forms of social support exchanged on the evolution of patients’ health conditions. We find evidence that informational support is the most prevalent type of support in the online healthcare community. Nevertheless, emotional support plays the most significant role in helping patients move to a healthier state. Overall, the influence of social support is found to vary by patients’ health conditions. Finally, we demonstrate that our proposed POMDP model can provide accurate predictions for patients’ health states and can be used to recover missing or unavailable information on patients’ health conditions.

Keywords: healthcare, social networks, online media, user generated content, Observed Markov Decision Process

JEL Classification: C51, C31, C32, C50, C52, C53, I10, I18

Suggested Citation

Yan, Lu (Lucy) and Tan, Yong, Feeling Blue? Go Online: An Empirical Study of Social Support among Patients (May 1, 2014). Information Systems Research. 25(4) 690-709, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1697849 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1697849

Lu (Lucy) Yan (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies ( email )

Department of Operations and Decision Technologies
1309 E. Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business ( email )

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

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