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The Capital Region of Denmark - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Facebook as a Medium for the Support and Enhancement of Ambulatory Care for People With Diabetes: Qualitative Realist Evaluation of a Real-World Trial

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BACKGROUND: There is a growing focus on the potential uses, benefits, and limitations of social media in the context of health care communication. In this study, we have sought to evaluate an initiative pioneered at a hospital in Denmark that uses Facebook to support and enhance patient-provider communication about diabetes.

OBJECTIVE: This paper aims to evaluate the success of the trial according to its initial objectives and to assess its potential scalability.

METHODS: The study was undertaken in a clinic for diabetes and hormonal diseases at a large regional hospital in Denmark. Using a realist evaluation approach, we identified 4 key components in the program theory of the initiative, which we formulated as context-mechanism-outcome configurations (eg, complex and iterative chains of causality). These configurations informed data gathering and analysis. Primary data sources were the activity and content in the Facebook group, in the form of posts, likes, and comments, and interviews with patients (n=26) and staff (n=6) at the clinic.

RESULTS: New developments in diabetes technology were the most popular posts in the forum, judged by number of likes and comments. Otherwise, information specific to the clinic received the most attention. All 4 components of the program theory were compromised to varying degrees, either as a result of failings in the anticipated mechanisms of change or contextual factors derived from the mode of implementation.

CONCLUSIONS: Social media serves well as a conduit for imagining positive change, but this can be a strength and weakness when attempting to enact change via concrete interventions, where stakeholder expectations may be unreasonably high or incompatible. Nonetheless, such initiatives may possess intangible benefits difficult to measure in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18146
JournalJMIR Diabetes
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)e18146
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

    Research areas

  • Facebook, Online patient-provider interaction, Realistic evaluation, Social media

ID: 61274258