Network Dynamics: How Can We Find Patients Like Us?

Information Systems Research 26(3) 496-512, 2015

38 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2011 Last revised: 4 Mar 2018

See all articles by Lu (Lucy) Yan

Lu (Lucy) Yan

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

Jianping Peng

Sun Yat-sen Business School, Sun Yat-sen University

Yong Tan

University of Washington - Michael G. Foster School of Business

Date Written: April 1, 2015

Abstract

Social networks have been shown to affect health. Because online social networking makes it easier for individuals to interact with experientially similar others in regard to health issues and to exchange social support, there has been increasing effort to understand how networks function. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to how these networks are formed. In this paper, we examine the driving forces behind patients’ social network formation and evolution. We argue that patients’ health-related traits influence their social connections and that the patients’ network layout is shaped by their cognitive capabilities and their network embeddedness. By studying longitudinal data from 1322 individuals and their communication ties in an online healthcare social network, we find that firsthand disease experience, which provides knowledge of the disease, increases the probability that patients will find experientially similar others and establish communication ties. Patients’ cognitive abilities, including the information load that they can process and the range of social ties that they can manage, however, limit their network growth. In addition, we find that patients’ efforts to reach out for additional social resources are associated with their embeddedness in the network and the cost of maintaining connections. Practical implications of our findings are discussed.

Keywords: social networks, healthcare, network dynamics, homophily, online media

Suggested Citation

Yan, Lu (Lucy) and Peng, Jianping and Tan, Yong, Network Dynamics: How Can We Find Patients Like Us? (April 1, 2015). Information Systems Research 26(3) 496-512, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1820748 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1820748

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

Jianping Peng

Sun Yat-sen Business School, Sun Yat-sen University ( email )

MBA Building 408, No135 West Xinggang Road
Guang Zhou, Guang Dang 510275
China

HOME PAGE: http://bus.sysu.edu.cn/Teacher/ShowTeacher.aspx?tid=118

Yong Tan

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

Box 353226
Seattle, WA 98195-3226
United States

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