Social media in health and care co-production
Embargo end date23/11/2020
Daneshvar Farzanegan, Sayed Hadi
The future of health and care services in the EU faces the three challenges of the aging population, fiscal restriction, and social inclusion. Co-production offers ways to manage informal care resources to enable them to better cater to the growing needs of elderly people. Social Media (SM) are seen as a critical enabler of co-production. This study investigates SM as an enabler of co-production in health and care for elderly people and develops a typology of opportunities and limitations of SM in relation to health and care. The study considers how SM acts as an enabler of co-production in health and care by facilitating its four underlying principles: equality, diversity, accessibility, and reciprocity. Normalization Process Theory (NPT) provides the theoretical framework for this qualitative study. Eighteen semi-structured interviews and observation of the activities of 10 online groups and individuals provide the data for the thematically-analysed findings. The study findings show how different SM are used to enable co-production through coordination and communication across boundaries. SM connects carers, disseminates information and engages volunteers. However, many types of SM are only rarely used in this sector due to their limitations. Nevertheless, carers of elderly patients demonstrated interest in using systems to engage people in the shaping of services, the sharing of experiences and encouraging activities. The study findings point to distinct patterns of feature use by different people involved in the care of elderly people. This diversity makes possible the principles of co-production by offering equality among users, enabling diversity of use, making experiences accessible, and encouraging reciprocity in the sharing of knowledge and mutual support. Exploitation of common resources also may lead to new forms of competition and conflicts. These conflicts require better management to enhance the coordination of the common pool of resources. The study finds that SM can facilitate co-production by offering mechanisms for coordination of the common pool of carer resources. It also enables better management of activities amongst other actors (professionals, patients, voluntary organisations, etc.). The study also demonstrates that, despite the capabilities of SM in achieving coproduction, many applications (both general and healthcare-specific) are not used to their full potential. The study also explores new innovations in this field and why they have failed to deliver their intended services.