Healthcare social networks are gaining prominence as an essential environment for sharing health-related experiences and best practices, discussing symptoms and drug side effects, and exchanging ideas about treatment options. Healthcare social networks can be either aimed at physicians or patients.
Physician social networks, such as Sermo, offer doctors the possibility to share clinical cases and medical knowledge. The benefits for physicians are tremendous: they can solve problems more efficiently by making informed decisions, collaborate on difficult cases, and get early insights into treatment developments.
Patient social networks, such as PatientsLikeMe, offer patients and caregivers, in a supportive environment, information about diseases, knowledge about symptoms and treatments, and patients’ health-related experiences and personal stories.
One of the biggest concerns about healthcare social networks is trust. This doesn’t come as a surprise, given the impact that the content of healthcare social networks may have on patients’ health and on the doctor-patient relationship. The core question is to what extent can healthcare social networks’ users ( physicians and patients alike) trust the content of those social networks. The shortcomings are many, for example, most patient social networks publish users’ comments and medical advices without verifying their validity. They only announce that their content should not be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment and recommend that patients seek the advice of physicians or other qualified health providers.
In order to address the trust issue, both physician social networks and patient social networks are working hard to add relevant trust and reputation features. For example, physicians on Sermo rank each observation’s pertinence. Sermo also offers financial incentives to encourage evaluative commentary. Nevertheless, existing trust and reputation features fall short of what is required for such services. We do think that healthcare social networks should place trust and reputation management at the heart of their services by opting for a hierarchical social network organization. The hierarchies have to be based on trust with regard to each member’s experience and expertise in relation to specific healthcare topics.
Rafik Hanibeche & Adel Amri (Trustiser Founders)