Sankara Subramanian Srinivasan (SS) Ph.D.
Fred Davis (FD) Ph.D.
Idaho State University (SS), University of Arkansas (FD)
To examine the efficacy of various types of system design (anonymous/non-anonymous/selective anonymous) on willingness to seek and share health information.
Online communities that bring patients with similar conditions together are growing in popularity and are called online patient communities (OPC). Fostering active collaboration among the OPC members is a major challenge. This research examines the role of system design in influencing seeking and sharing of health related support among members of OPCs. In light of the growing emphasis on giving consumers control over their health information, this research theorized a new type of system design called selective-anonymous system which lets the users choose whether to be anonymous or non-anonymous in using the OPC as a way of enhancing seeking and sharing of support in OPCs.
A scenario-based repeated-measures quasi experiment was employed wherein participants were presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked for their response â€“ that of, willingness to seek and share health information (General/Sensitive) under various system types. The sample was drawn from the members of an online consumer panel (Amazon Turk). A total of 462 participants based in US completed the survey of which nearly 53 percent were female.
OPC systems that afford user control were found to be better than non-anonymous systems in influencing both seeking and sharing of support. However, interestingly, selective-anonymous systems were not any better than anonymous OPC systems in influencing seeking and sharing of support.
Given the emphasis from federal government on empowering consumers and giving them control over their health information through initiatives such as Blue Button, this research suggests that even simple interventions such as system design interventions can serve to empower users over how their identity is associated with their postings. Also, the findings of this research suggest that OPC administrators can safely consider opting to a â€œuser preferenceâ€ mode if they are currently offering only an anonymous or a non-anonymous OPC.