Successful moderation in online patient communities: Inductive case study

Tanner Skousen, Hani Safadi, Colleen Young, Elena Karahanna, Sami Safadi, Fouad Chebib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Online patient communities are becoming more prevalent as a resource to help patients take control of their health. However, online patient communities experience challenges that require active moderation. Objective: This study aimed to identify the challenges of sustaining a thriving online patient community and the moderation practices employed to address the challenges and manage the online patient community successfully. Methods: An inductive case study of Mayo Clinic Connect was analyzed using the grounded theory methodology. Insights for the analysis were obtained from semistructured interviews with community managers and community members. Secondary data sources, such as community management documents, observational meeting notes, and community postings, were used to validate and triangulate the findings. Results: We identified four challenges unique to online patient communities. These challenges include passion, nonmedical advice, personal information, and community participation. We identified five categories of practices that community members used to address these challenges and moderate the community successfully. These practices include instructive, semantic, connective, administrative, and policing practices. Conclusions: Successful moderation in online patient communities requires a multitude of practices to manage the challenges that arise in these communities. Some practices are implemented as preventive measures while other practices are more interventive. Additionally, practices can come from both authority figures and exemplary members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15983
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank the moderators and mentors in Mayo Clinic Connect for their generous collaboration. The authors benefited from the feedback by participants at the 2019 International Conference on Information Systems, the 2019 Terry College of Business management information system (MIS) Seminar, and Prof Amrit Tiwana. HS acknowledges financial support from the 2017 Faculty Research Grant sponsored by the University of Georgia Research Foundation (grant number 10-21-RX064-679), the 2019 Terry-Sanford Summer Research Award, and the MIS department in the Terry College of Business.

Publisher Copyright:
©Tanner Skousen, Hani Safadi, Colleen Young, Elena Karahanna, Sami Safadi, Fouad Chebib.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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