On the influence of lay expertise – peer to peer advice in online health communities

The FINDER program sets out to Foster Innovation Networks in a Digital Era.  Such an ambition cannot be limited to a single industry or a single user group, but is by definition aimed at broader applicability in which social relevance is paramount. In this context, research affiliated with the FINDER project also bridges boundaries to other domains, with recent work by some of the FINDER staff traversing into the field of social science and medicine.

Based on ideas form network theory, we looked into the social interactions as they took place over more than a decade, as we tracked a major English-speaking online health community. Interaction data for the study were collected in July 2017 and consisted of all contributions made this timespan, totaling to 147,561 user profiles and 197,980 discussions, which in turn contain 484,250 replies. Unlike some online health communities, which connect patients with healthcare professionals, the site, which is subject to our study, in intended for non-professionals. The rate of users, who consider themselves as healthcare professionals, is less than one percent. Although a survey conducted by the operators of the community showed that a third of participants claim they visit the website to learn about new and different treatments, the advice sought and given is often not only factually relevant but often emotionally supportive. Similar to a traditional support group, the social exchange amongst peers is encouraged.

The scoping is interesting also in the context of FINDER, that sets out to understand the role of new technology developments in the context of collaborative networks, and we pose, may well infuse notions of effective collaboration and social influencing into more FINTECH attuned online endeavors. A commonality to the ongoings of one of the FINDER project partners – Voleo – hence is rather straightforward, with online peer to peer investment advice banking also on voluntary, discretionary advisory actions by the community constituents.

So what did we find?

When seeking advice online about health concerns, forums dedicated to medical themes are increasingly becoming an appreciated source of information for many individuals. In online health communities, patients can ask questions or otherwise seek advice that is particularly relevant to them. While they may find some of the advice useful, other advice may be perceived as less valuable. By studying the advice-seeking, advice-giving, and advice-evaluation behaviours in one of the largest online health communities in Europe, we looked at what determines which advice is perceived as helpful, and why. Utilising zero-inflated negative binominal modelling, our results show that advice received from others, who have similar predominant interests, is valued more when reaching out for lay expertise. If this advice is given by peers, who can also draw on expertise from other health areas, allowing for a combination of diverse “lay” expertise, the advice is valued even more. Advice provided by those who are quick to obtain the latest knowledge available in the larger community further reinforces these effects. Our findings offer an original view to understand the influence of lay expertise exchanged via online health communities and hold implications for both policy-makers and medical practitioners regarding their approach to patient-initiated use of social media for health-related reasons.

Policy wise our study is interesting also. From various fields, researchers and policymakers have made efforts to understand the behavioural and social causes of human behaviour in health communities. With the advent of online communities, online health communities continue to challenge healthcare professionals in their health advice, being called upon to provide for an alternative of validating opinions. Indeed, also historically, individuals have probably always sought advice about their health status from peers, yet, facilitated by  the pervasive adoption of digital technologies  and digitally enabled infrastructures in the healthcare domain, patients can now do so much more readily and pervasively, contacting distant peers as well. As a consequence, policymakers and medical professionals should prepare for patients to possibly have already sought extensive advice when they request medical services. These insights may well transcend beyond the boundaries of the health community – fueling new ideas in other tech enabled domains of interaction, we pose.

Policy implications.

For policymakers, these insights are of specific relevance. Being better informed about what determines which advice is found to be valuable by people, who seek advice, and why helps in making more accurate assessments on the conditions under which patients will follow through in their treatment trajectory. With studies repeatedly suggesting adherence to medical treatment plans to be a primary determinant of treatment success, being able to better predict individual-level perception of advice quality received holds value. Indeed, failure to adhere not only affects patients but also the healthcare system as it drives costs and constrains healthcare capacity. For policymakers in the health domain, adopting suitable techniques to link into peer advice in online health communities provides an opportunity to improve treatment plan adherence. Also in the initial, orientating phase on health advice, further insight into the relational conditions that drive or constrain patients from using medical advice, can be of assistance to health care professionals such as physicians, pharmacists and nurses. In their daily practice, they are increasingly required to interact with patients that second guess, or at the very least cross check their medical advice via online health communities. For instance, in relation to the worry medical professionals might have about the nature of the advice individuals receive online, our study suggests that the more medical terms are used in a reply, and the more serious or ‘risky’ the condition the advice seeker’s question is about, the less likely it is that the advice is perceived as helpful. However, slightly longer texts are liked more.

Additionally, and from the viewpoint of the medical advisee, the medical advice received through the formal healthcare channels may or may not be correct, or may fail to take account of the advisee’s complete medical situation, and may or may not be correctly interpreted. This view, predicated on the assumption that professional medical advice is to be contrasted with peer advice, is a substantial concern for many, and yet virtual advising on healthcare related themes is increasing rapidly and will most likely continue doing so. While we cannot ascertain what the medical quality of the advice obtained for the advisee is, we are able to determine how much they appreciated the advice. We find that when advisers are able to connect readily to advice-seekers because they have a similar knowledge background, this substantially increases the chances of the advice given being valued (‘liked’). When the adviser also has knowledge from other medical knowledge domains he or she can leverage as well, the advice is appreciated even more. This finding suggests that medical advice seekers value advice givers, who have a degree of empathy, which may be something professional medical advice givers may need to acknowledge somewhat more.

Next steps.

Additional qualitative research – as currently going on within the FINDER project amongst others – will need to confirm this, but our findings suggest that perhaps many individuals, even among those who are actively seeking advice, come to seek initial information and perhaps mostly consolation, and perhaps pointers of where to look for additional information. One speculation could be that advice seekers are preparing for a consultation with a medical professional – this could explain why advisees do not like medical terms in responses. In this latter interpretation, the peer advice individuals receive is not to be contrasted with the advice medical professionals extend. A broader or deeper understanding of what it means for an advisee to “like” a response to their question, and if, or how, peer and professional advice may be interpreted and valued using different metrics, would add to the quantitative study of the patterns of behaviour in the full network that we analysed. With recent advances in digital technologies such as blockchain, virtual and augmented realities, future work may also want to look into the type of online communities in further detail, advancing our understanding on how the advance of digital technology in the health care domain gives rise to new opportunities for patient-peer advice. By the very nature of our single case study design our study does not allow for such comparison, yet helps to trigger thoughts on how the use of digital technology may change the way value is created and extracted amongst patients and health care professionals as they engage in online health platforms.

Paper forthcoming with Social Science and Medicine, coauthored by Jasmina Rueger (Wageningen University), Wilfred Dolfsma (Wageningen University) and Rick Aalbers (Radboud University / FINDER), a prior version was presented at the  FINDER Research Excellence Workshop  at Atos Amstelveen, The Netherlands (February 10th and 11th  2020) – organized by this ITN project.

The Inner Workings Of Any Business Model: Human Interactions

Fintechs and Innovation

When it comes to innovation, its importance to success is by no means new. Already in the ‘60s and ‘90s, managers and researchers have given innovation a key role at the forefront of successful entrepreneurialism, yet with the rise of the above trends its importance over the years has accelerated. Its importance can be traced to the growing investment by firms – between 2005 and a good decade later, the innovation spend by the globe’s 1000 largest corporates increased from $400 billion to over $700 billion. It does, however, not all come down to big money – an analysis from Strategy& reveals that big spenders are not necessarily the most innovative, which allows for discussions about which other key elements determine the success of internal R&D or corporate venturing activities.

To make matters more complex – despite all the knowledge, theory and best practices with regards to innovation management – studies show that a large share of programmes linked to innovation either fail or do not realise all their objectives pursued. Dozens of factors contribute to this, which typically vary per region, organisation type and size and innovation product/service, and again researchers have been able to identify the most important factors contributing to the failure of the programmes. In other words, successful innovation, according to many, not only requires that the right contextual and programme factors are in place, but also that the known barriers to innovation are mitigated. With so much under consideration, it comes as no surprise that CxO’s and managers still struggle with the phenomenon on a daily basis. The FinTech industry provides an interesting case in point where innovation is still at the forefront of its potential, and valuation of new business opportunity is surging.

Managing the Networked FinTech Organization

To help professionals successfully manage innovation, the FINDER programme reviews a large number of models and researches on the topic, and looks into the dynamics of a diverse set of organisations. However we view upon the grand challenge of ongoing innovation, also in the Fintech domain, businesses have two reasons to reorganise. The first stems from the wish to innovate. The second surfaces when things are not going well and people need to be laid-off: how can we limit the damage? In both cases it will be useful to map the company’s innovation-DNA. Improvement – which is always the goal – starts with new ideas. And only when you know where these ideas enter the organisation and how they spread, can you redeem them. The use of an Organisational Network Analyse (ONA) offers a solution: the model shows where things happen and where not.

As part of the work of this ESR and extending on prior work featuring amongst others in this book we illustrate how managers can – with the help of social network analytics – identify key processes and information flows, and how they can eliminate the information barriers within organisations that derail innovation objectives. With FinTech initiatives less and less constrained by traditional organizational boundaries, we zoom into the collaborative efforts between small firms and large incumbents alike.  ‘Massive jumps’ in innovation activity and performance can be achieved by putting people together who ordinarily do not communicate, or by introducing a ‘forced communication governance’, our exploratory work already suggests.

On the Tech in FinTech

Just as other tech oriented industries, the fintech industry is shaping up quickly, and M&A is becoming the inorganic growth strategy of choice, just as it is in many other high tech settings.

But what do we know about high tech acquisitions when it comes to market response?

For instance, we know that geography plays an important role in explaining their actual innovative performance. Based on an empirical study of 3680 high tech acquirers prior work coauthored by one of the FINDER members, only 21.04% of high tech firms examined proved more innovative after an acquisition.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor research policy"

Considering the effect of an acquisition on the innovation trajectory of the two firms, work featuring in Research Policy, considers some of the innovation consequences of high tech acquisitions, not too different from the ones currently under observation in the scope of the FINDER project. Drawing on insights from the transaction costs and international business literatures findings suggest that both geographic distance and borders influence post-acquisition innovative performance. Examining the patent portfolios of 3683 high tech acquirers in the period 2000–2012  support for a ‘liability of distance’ hypothesis is found – showcasing every 1000 km between the target and the acquirer to cost as much as 19 lost patent applications. The study does not find support for a ‘liability of foreignness’ hypothesis, however, but shows in fact, that else equal, cross-border deals result in 3.15 additional patent applications in a high tech context. For high tech acquirers ‘foreignness’ appears, therefore, to be more of an ‘asset’ than a ‘liability’. Would the lion’s share of these differences, just as in the case of the high tech acquisitions observed in this study, also be accounted  for by cultural differences? Current work by this ESR explores some of the underlying drivers of M&A success in a fintech context. Keeping you posted on the outcome when we can!

Last places left for the FINDER Research Excellence Workshop at Atos for early and mid stage doctoral students (February 10th and 11th)

The FINDER project announces the following Research Excellence Workshop targeted at early and mid stage doctoral students ready to advance their current work to a next level. The FINDER Research Excellence Workshop will be held at the premises of Atos in Amstelveen and is intended for doctoral students at the early stage of their dissertation research. The workshop will be highly interactive and will include a variety of panels, practical sessions on developing dissertation proposals and launching academic careers. The FINDER Research Excellence Workshop is a two-day workshop, focused on advanced methodologies and research publication strategies. This workshop aims to increase the knowledge of the participants on qualitative and quantitative research methods at advanced levels. Moreover, it will provide an opportunity for the participants to refine their research skills, increasing their chances of publication in high quality international journals, and learning how to deal with the research study and with publishing challenges. The purpose of the FINDER Research Excellence Workshop is to develop the publication strategies and research skills of doctoral students in the fields of digital innovation. The workshop is scheduled for February 10th and 11th, 2020.

 The FINDER Research Excellence Workshop is a two-day workshop, focused on advanced methodologies and research publication strategies. This workshop aims to increase the knowledge of the participants on qualitative and quantitative research methods at advanced levels. Moreover, it will provide an opportunity for the participants to refine their research skills, increasing their chances of publication in high quality international journals, and learning how to deal with the research study and with publishing challenges.

Foto Amstelveen
(Atrium Atos Amstelveen -Foto Jean-Pierre Jans )

The purpose of the FINDER Research Excellence Workshop is to develop the publication strategies and research skills of doctoral students in the fields of digital innovation. To allow for interactive discussions and feedback between participants in a friendly environment, the number of participants will be limited to 20. Overall aim of this workshop is to provide doctoral students with the opportunity to submit a paper on a subject related to digital innovation. The workshop will be moderated by several scholars affiliated to the FINDER program and beyond, a.o. from Radboud University, VU Amsterdam, TU Eindhoven and the University of Groningen.

In small group sessions, managed by an experienced faculty, each paper will be allocated a senior scholar as a discussant and authors will receive feedback from peers and other participants. Thus, participants will be required to read and review the papers from other participants of the session. Papers should focus on the participants’ doctoral research. Both theoretical and empirical papers are welcomed, as long as they are closely related to the dissertation topic. Students are welcome to use the opportunity to present their dissertation proposal.

Selection of papers will be done through the submission of extended abstracts (four pages plus two pages references) or full papers no later than Friday January 24th, 2020 by email to Linda Buis – r.buis@fm.ru.nl (Project Management Office FINDER – Fostering Innovation Networks in a Digital Era). Update: Only  2 places left – don’t miss out.

Doctoral workshop hosted by FINDER at the the SMS Special Conference Berkeley “Designing the Future: Strategy, Technology, and Society in the 4th Industrial Revolution”

As part of the SMS Special Conference Berkeley “Designing the Future: Strategy, Technology, and Society in the 4th Industrial Revolution”, the Strategic Management Society will host a Doctoral Workshop on March 25th, 2020. This event is an initiative of the FINDER program and hosted by Rick Aalbers (Radboud), Saeed Khanagha (VU) and  Krsto Pandza (Univ Leeds). The main objectives of this Doctoral Workshop, focusing on strategy and innovation in a digital era, are to foster interaction among leading faculty scholars and doctoral students on various aspects of research and on preparing for a professional career in academia. The doctoral student participants will broaden their academic network with senior faculty from around the world and develop a better understanding of the particularities of the academic career.

The doctoral workshop will have an interactive intent and is open for doctoral students from across the globe interested in the Strategic collaboration domain and the role of Technology therein, so central to the FINDER objectives. Participants will be accepted through this application process.

During the first part of the workshop, as a doctoral student you will encounter senior faculty and other participating students to receive an initial response to your research proposal. In the second part, you will pitch your research, practicing to anticipate, critically reflect and nuance your contribution as part of the academic debate.  The objective is to strengthen and effectively position your research (e.g. the research question, the importance of the research gap, theoretical reasoning, and selection of target journals). Throughout the workshop, you will get a chance to present your work and engage in a constructive dialogue with senior faculty and your peers. The format of the workshop will be a combination of presentations by and interactive discussions with a panel of senior international faculty.

During the main SMS Berkley event dedicated to “Designing the Future: Strategy, Technology, and Society leading researchers in the field will bring their experience into the discussion to further develop participants’ insight into the key themes of this conference. The FINDER program is represented in this program as well as part of the sub plenary programming, including various a representation of the FINDER business and academic delegates serving as session hosts, participants and discussants.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor berkeley university"

Paying it forwards: Building next generation platforms to succeed in next-generation banking ecosystems

By Remco Neuteboom (orriginal post on atos.net, July 2018)

To reinvent themselves, banks need to leverage customer data within innovative business models. For that, technology platforms must evolve. This requires banks to become more agile and develop the right partnerships.

Successfully meeting these four transformation challenges and opportunities for the future of banking – responding faster to customer’s demand; optimizing costs radically; creating new revenue streams with open platforms; providing predictive security and compliance – will impact the banking business models, organizational strategies, and resources. It will also impact the very foundations of banking technologies.

Bringing legacy tech into the digital era

For decades, banks have built bullet-proof information systems that combine powerful and reliable technologies. They have pioneered mainframes, payment systems and high-performance computing for high-frequency trading.

However, systems for loans, savings and other banking activities were usually built in isolation. Now, based on dated technologies, these systems often fail to provide the agility and scalability banks need in today’s fast-moving landscape.

Banks have already launched a wealth of modernization initiatives. Motivations vary: catching up with digital innovation, experimenting with the cloud, developing mobile banking, or even improving customers’ digital experiences.

And while success has been plentiful, increasing competition from the global tech players and FinTechs means banks must accelerate their efforts.

Preparing for a paradigm shift

Adapting to the new era requires a quantum leap. To embrace the challenges of a digital world and take a winning position within it, three core principles will be essential for banks:
◾Become wholly customer-centric, ensuring 360° omnichannel engagement with clients, smart devices and machines.
◾Provide intelligent data-driven orchestration, enabling adaptation to market changes and evolving customer demands in a real-time, prescriptive way.
◾Adopt open platform foundations, providing the best financial utility services.

The road ahead
To thrive, banks will need to create the right partnerships and convene the largest ecosystem to enrich their offering, monetize their data and turn it into profit. Banks should begin building new supporting architectures today. Modernizing legacy IT and fully embracing the latest cloud, automation, big data and mobile technologies is only the start of the journey.

More disruptive technologies will emerge. While some may only appear as dots on the horizon today, they will turn out to be transformational in the years to come.

To learn more, read Look Out 2020+ for Banking.

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About Remco Neuteboom

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Remco Neuteboom

Global Head of Digital Transformation in Financial Services

Remco Neuteboom is the Global Head of Digital Transformation in Financial Services with Atos. Remco is responsible for the development and delivery of Atos’ Financial Services vision. The strategy is powered by the ‘Digital Customer Experience’ – which comprises of Omni-Channel Customer Management; Customer DNA and Targeting; Digital Marketing; Digital Customer Advisory; Next Gen Branch; and Mobile Payment and Wallet solutions. Remco has over eight years’ experience in customer engagement, working with a number of banks & insurers. As well as this, he has more than 16 years’ experience with digital business transformation and has spent the last decade working in financial services.

Collaborative Fintech network: within and beyond the boundary of the firm

Companies that want to sail a different wind, typically have an improvement in mind. And whether this improvement is now a bare necessity – things do not go well, things must change – or rather originates from an ambition to innovate, in both cases, it comes down to rendering ideas to make things work for the better. Only if you know where and whom those ideas within the organization originate from and how they spread, management can actually redeem their potential. An analysis of the organizational network can help to show if ‘something’ or ‘nothing’ happens to unearth new insights to the benefit of the company, and also when it comes to getting these ideas dispersed in and adapted by the company.

Organizational network analysis (ONA) is a systematic approach and set of techniques for studying the connections and resource flows between people, teams, departments and even whole organizations. The underlying idea is that employees and their interactions can be seen as nodes and links that allow for both visual and mathematical illustration. Organizations can be approached as a set of communication net­works as much as they are a bundle of resources or contracts, and people in a firm exchange information and knowledge of many different kinds with each other. Some of it may be irrelevant to the firm’s performance, but even so communication can help people form closer connections which can help them get their job done.

Through organizational network analytics, managers can gain a bird’s-eye view of existing network structures and communication patterns, which are often in stark contrast to what they believe them to be or how they would like them to function. Who are connected to each other? How often do they interact? About what?

“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us

to notice what we never expected to see.”

– John Tukey, 1977

In management settings, organizational network analysis has been effective at providing leaders with insights to help diagnose and solve the problems that often hamper important collective-process outcomes such as organizational structure, decision making, performance and innovation. nieuwe figuur

The degree to which organizations are able to reap the benefits of the social capital represented by the networks, depends to a large extent to the degree to which resources can be accessed and mobilized through them. While the potential of leveraging an organization’s networks to render innovative activity can be substantial, the barriers faced within the organization to do so can be equally large. Organizational boundaries, such as organizational divides between different functional or operational domains, business units, are hurdles for the free flow of knowledge inside the organization. Management can and must understand the connections present in a firm before it starts any form of intervention to boost innovative activity within or across a business unit, for instance. Actual innovation contacts can be more difficult to find. The formal contacts are most visible, and the informal ones can be relatively easily uncovered. The latter two also help management find and nourish the innovation sweet spot. Insights in individual differences, and the rationale behind these differences are a first step in assessing the ideation climate of an organization.

Zooming in on the individual with ONA

Connections among people and the overall network configuration should be what a manager who minds a company’s long-run success keeps in view. Organization network analysis can be of help to identify idea connectors, for instance: those individuals that are core to getting others together around a new idea, establishing a buzz around new ideas and to attracting genuine managerial attention. The underlying analytics can help to assess if there are parts of the internal network to which their ties do not extend, for instance. Knowing of such omissions, management as well as employees themselves, can take the necessary steps to remedy them.

Ongoing ideation is a necessity. So are the analytics to take pulse of its presence.