Nevin Manimala Statistics

The Effect of Offline Medical Resource Distribution on Online Physician-Patient Interaction: Empirical Study With Online and Offline Data

JMIR Form Res. 2023 Jan 10;7:e43533. doi: 10.2196/43533.


BACKGROUND: The relationship between online health communities (OHCs) and offline medical care is unclear because both provide physician-patient interaction services and channels. Taking advantage of information and communication technology, patients have been using OHCs widely. However, some physical medical resources (such as hospital beds and medical devices) cannot be replicated by information and communication technologies. Therefore, it is worth studying how offline medical resources affect physician-patient interactions in OHCs and how OHCs help to solve resource scarcity and the uneven distribution of traditional medical treatment.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to support the notion that physician-patient consultations in OHCs are influenced by the objective distribution of offline health care capital (accessibility and availability) and to provide suggestions for the allocation of medical resources in practice through the judicious use of offline and online channels.

METHODS: The empirical data in this study were collected from both online and offline channels. The offline data include 9 years (2006-2014) of medical resource statistics of 31 provincial administrative regions in mainland China. Moreover, data regarding the geolocation-based physician-patient interaction network in the OHC were also collected. The online data come from one of China’s largest OHCs. We obtained 92,492 telephone consultation records of 6006 physicians using an automatic web crawler program. Social network analysis was used to visualize the descriptive statistics of the offline geolocation-based physician-patient interaction network in the OHC. A regression model with a squared variable was applied to analyze online and offline empirical data to further test our hypothesis. Two types of robustness tests were used to increase the reliability of the test results of the initial model.

RESULTS: The results of our social network analysis show that there is a uniform geographic distribution of patients who use OHCs, whereas the physician relies more on geographic advantage (eg, a higher medical resource capability). Moreover, the empirical results of the regression model support the notion that physician-patient telephone consultations are positively influenced by physicians’ online contributions (βcontribution=.210; P<.001) and capital availability (βbed=.935; P=.07), and, interestingly, spatial accessibility has an inverted U-shaped effect (βdistance=.199; P<.001 and βdistance2=-.00449; P=.008). The results indicate that the use of OHCs, although constrained by offline medical resources, provides a channel for offline resources to flow from areas with high availability to those with low availability.

CONCLUSIONS: This study explores the relationship between online and offline channels by investigating online physician-patient interactions and offline medical resources. In particular, this study analyzes the impact of offline channels on online channels and verifies the possibility of OHC capital use shifting from a high-availability area to a low-availability area. In addition, it provides a theoretical and practical basis for understanding the interaction of online and offline channels of medical care.

PMID:36626204 | DOI:10.2196/43533

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