Building new e-health services by exploiting social networks

Enrico Coiera
Australian Institute of Health Innovation Maquiarie University

If we wish our future e-health systems to bring together citizens and health service providers, we will need to design systems that reflect the social nature of communiti es. Social networks provide a powerful way of modelling how citizens reposed to health messages, how health behaviors are shaped, and even how some diseases propagate.

Online social network technologies, which exploit such real networks, provide us new mechanisms for measuring citizen beliefs and behaviors, new ways of engaging with the population, and many new types of e-health services. When disease processes have social underpinnings, such as obesity, network technologies themselves can become the therapy. If we truly wish to build e-health services that support citizens in the community as well as link them to hospital and specialist services, then we must also pay respect to the social nature of that relationship.