Building health related social networking sites require much-needed features like online health communities.
Many illness sufferers are now participating in online illness specific communities, discussing their experiences. We all have sick friends and family members, and now thanks to e-mail, live health chat, health forums, medical blogs, video sharing and other online resources, we have become much more intimate and the supportive environments are helping those with serious illnesses and diseases.
Social networking sites may have such supportive environments, however without an online health community, health related social networking sites simply become another social networking site.
There are many challenges faced by most social networking sites and the most common is getting people back onto the site. How do we engage people in health care services and have them coming back to the social networking site on a regular basis that is not for a recreational means? One answer is ensuring the online health communities are active and relevant to the users of the site.
The second most common challenge is how to create synergies among the different services offered by the social networking sites and what are the differentiations between these sites to better compete in this niche market. One answer is ensuring the online health communities are offering meaningful information related to the illness sufferers and ensuring that the “big brothers” or advocates of the social networking sites are keeping the health content up to date and relevant for all users of the site, be it illness sufferers or family and friends of illness sufferers.
These online global health communities are emerging as a new medical domain and require illness sufferers to join to help keep the online global health communities afloat. These online health communities are open to all: illness sufferers, family, friends, professionals, and researchers. People seen within these communities are a valuable health resource to others suffering from the same illness or disease.
People within these health communities are strong advocates, making others aware of what it is they are suffering from and detailing their experiences. These people can be seen as “big brothers or big sisters” to others within their community. They frequently post content designed to help others, and to respond to the questions posted by others.
Quality of life improves when the illness sufferers are in control of their illness or disease, and the communities provide illness sufferers this support. The greater the community, the greater the support. All communities require growth, growth by visitors and growth by registered members participating in discussions.