When healthcare professionals form communities through digital technology

Digital technology is shaking up the healthcare world. Among its other uses, it can help break isolation and facilitate online interactions in both the private and professional spheres. Can these virtual interactions help form a collective structure and community for individuals whose occupations involve isolation and distance from their peers? Nicolas Jullien, a researcher in economics at IMT Atlantique, looks at two professional groups, non-hospital doctors and home care workers, to outline the trends of these new digital connections between practices.

Nicolas Jullien, chercheur en économie à IMT AtlantiqueOn the Twitter social network, doctors interact using a bot with the hashtag #DocTocToc. These interactions include all kinds of professional questions, requests for details about a diagnosis, advice or medical trivia. In existence since 2012, this channel for mutual assistance appears to be effective. With rapid interactions and reactive responses, the messages pour in minutes after a question is asked. None of this comes as a surprise for researcher Nicolas Jullien: "At a time when we hear that digital technology is causing structures to fall apart, to what extent does it also contribute to the emergence and organization of new communities?"

Doctors–and healthcare professionals in general–are increasingly connected and have a greater voice. On Twitter, some star doctors have thousands of followers: 28,900 for Baptiste Beaulieu, a family doctor, novelist and formerly a radio commentator on France Inter; 25,200 for medical intern and cartoonist @ViedeCarabin; and nearly 9,900 for Jean-Jacques Fraslin, family doctor and author of an op-ed piece denouncing alternative medicine. Until now, few studies had been conducted on these new online communities of practice. Under what conditions do they emerge? What are the constraints involved in their development? What challenges do they face?

Published on 10.10.2019

by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT