JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Background: Consumer health information technology (IT) solutions are designed to support patient health management and have the ability to facilitate patients' health information communication with their social networks. However, there is a need for consumer health IT solutions to align with patients' health management preferences for increased adoption of the technology. It may be possible to gain an understanding of patients' needs for consumer health IT supporting their health information communication with social networks by explicating how they have adopted and adapted social networking sites, such as Facebook, for this purpose. Objective: Our aim was to characterize patients' use of all communication mechanisms within Facebook for health information communication to provide insight into how consumer health IT solutions may be better designed to meet patients' communication needs and preferences. Methods: This study analyzed data about Facebook communication mechanisms use from a larger, three-phase, sequential, mixed-methods study. We report here on the results of the study's first phase: qualitative interviews (N=25). Participants were over 18, used Facebook, were residents or citizens of the United States, spoke English, and had a diagnosis consistent with type 2 diabetes. Participants were recruited through Facebook groups and pages. Participant interviews were conducted via Skype or telephone between July and September 2014. Data analysis was grounded in qualitative content analysis and the initial coding framework was informed by the findings of a previous study. Results: Participants' rationales for the use or disuse of a particular Facebook mechanism to communicate health information reflected six broad themes: (1) characteristics and circumstances of the person, (2) characteristics and circumstances of the relationship, (3) structure and composition of the social network, (4) content of the information, (5) communication purpose, and (6) attributes of the technology. Conclusions: The results of this study showed that participants consider multiple factors when choosing a Facebook mechanism for health information communication. Factors included what information they intended to share, what they were trying to accomplish, attributes of technology, and attributes and communication practices of their social networks. There is a need for consumer health IT that allows for a range of choices to suit the intersectionality of participants' rationales. Technology that better meets patients' needs may lead to better self-management of health conditions, and therefore, improve overall health outcomes.
Menefee, Hannah K.; Thompson, Morgan J.; Guterbock, Thomas M.; and Williams, Ishan C., Mechanisms of Communicating Health Information Through Facebook: Implications for Consumer Health Information Technology Design (2016). JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, 214(4), 644-648.