BACKGROUND Social media are a vital link for people with health concerns who find in Web communities a valid and comforting source for information exchange, debate, and knowledge enrichment. This aspect is important for people affected by chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), who are very well informed about the disease but are vulnerable to hopes of being cured or saved by therapies whose efficacy is not always scientifically proven. To improve health-related coping and social interaction for people with MS, we created an MS social network (SMsocialnetwork.com) with a medical team constantly online to intervene promptly when false or inappropriate medical information are shared. OBJECTIVE The goal of this study was to assess the impact of SMsocialnetwork.com on the health-related coping and social interaction of people with MS by analyzing areas of interest through a Web-based survey. METHODS Referring to previous marketing studies analyzing the online platform's role in targeted health care, we conducted a 39-item Web-based survey. We then performed a construct validation procedure using a factorial analysis, gathering together like items of the survey related to different areas of interest such as utility, proximity, sharing, interaction, solving uncertainty, suggestion attitude, and exploration. RESULTS We collected 130 Web-based surveys. The areas of interest analysis demonstrated that the users positively evaluated SMsocialnetwork.com to obtain information, approach and solve problems, and to make decisions (utility: median 4.2); improve feeling of closeness (proximity: median 5); catalyze relationships and text general personal opinions (sharing: median 5.6); get in touch with other users to receive innovative, effective, and practical solutions (interaction, solving uncertainty, and suggestion attitude medians were respectively: 4.1, 3, and 3); and share information about innovative therapeutic approaches and treatment options (suggestion attitude: median: 3.3). CONCLUSIONS SMsocialnetwork.com was perceived by users to be a useful tool to support health-related coping and social interaction, and may suggest a new kind of therapeutic alliance between physicians and people with MS.
Lavorgna, L., Russo, A., De Stefano, M., Lanzillo, R., Esposito, S., Moshtari, F., … Bonavita, S. (2017). Health-Related Coping and Social Interaction in People with Multiple Sclerosis Supported by a Social Network: Pilot Study With a New Methodological Approach. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 6(2), e10. https://doi.org/10.2196/ijmr.7402