Online health interactions (OHIs) can benefit patients, physicians, and society. However, little research has been conducted that studies the social value of OHIs for third-party patients who view previous OHIs concerning similar health issues to theirs. Drawing on the literature on social support and information uncertainty, this study established a theoretical model to explore the roles of treatment information, prevention information, and emotional support in determining information usefulness perceived by third-party patients, and whether such relationships are contingent on information uncertainty. The model was tested using “health questions and answers” textual data from 1,848 OHIs. The results indicate that prevention information and emotional support significantly improve information usefulness perceived by third-party patients. When the level of information uncertainty regarding physicians’ replies is high, the effect of treatment information is strengthened and the effect of emotional support is weakened, indicating both positive and negative contingent roles of information uncertainty. This study has implications for practitioners and also contributes to the literature on online health information, social support, information science, and information uncertainty.
Shi,, Dingyu; Ren, Changchang; liu, Yixuan; and Zhang, Xiaofei, "Evaluating the Information Usefulness of Online Health Information for Third-party Patients" (2020). WHICEB 2020 Proceedings. 66.