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The social value of virtual health communities

11th National Competition for Economic Research Grants

Health economics

Senior Researcher : Jie Mein Goh

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Research Centre or Institution : IE Business School. Madrid.


Rural areas in general have fewer medical professionals and their inhabitants often lack medical information, and they therefore tend to have worse health outcomes compared to the inhabitants of urban areas. Virtual technological platforms, such as virtual health communities, may be capable of filling this gap, as they provide an environment in which the patients in urban and rural areas can interact and exchange information.

The aim of this project is to examine whether the virtual health communities reduce the rural-urban knowledge gap and contribute value to society, by studying patterns of support between patients in this virtual community through analysis of social networks and stochastic models of the network, in order to determine empirically whether urban patients tend to respond to the subjects posted by rural patients, about various types of questions, such as the symptoms, the nature and the prognosis of the illness.

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