Examining users’ knowledge sharing behaviour in online health communities

Date03 September 2019
Published date03 September 2019
AuthorTao Zhou
Subject MatterLibrary & information science
Examining usersknowledge
sharing behaviour in online
health communities
Tao Zhou
School of Management, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou, China
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to draw on the stimulus-organism-response (SOR) framework to
examine usersknowledge sharing in online health communities (OHC).
Design/methodology/approach Based on the 326 valid responses collected from a survey, structural
equation modelling was employed to examine the research model.
Findings The results indicated that both information quality and service quality affect trust in community,
whereas both informational support and emotional support affect trust in other members. Both types of trust
and privacy risk determine userssharing intention, which in turn affects sharing behaviour.
Research limitations/implications The results imply that service providers need to improve their
community platforms and create a supportive climate in order to facilitate userstrust and their knowledge
sharing behaviour.
Originality/value Previous studies have examined a few determinants of OHC user behaviour such as
privacy concern, trust and motivations. However, they have seldom disclosed the internal decision process
underlying usersknowledge sharing. This research tries to fill the gap.
Keywords Trust, Social support, Knowledge sharing, Online health communities, Community quality,
Privacy risk
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Online health communities (OHC) provide a platform for users to acquire health information
and share their knowledge. Due to its advantages, such as convenience and efficiency, OHC
have received wide adoption among users. CNNICs (2017) report indicated that about
26.6 per cent of internet users (195m) have ever used online health services. In China, a few
reputable OHC such as Haodf and Dxy have achieved great success. Users can discuss with
other members about a common topic and exchange their experience and knowledge. They
may also express social support to other members, which may help alleviate the anxiety and
improve moods (Liu et al., 2018). The user-generated content provides great value for OHC
providers. However, previous research has found that users have typically acquired
information but contributed little on the OHC (Yan et al., 2016; Zhang et al., 2017). This may
impede the sustainable development of OHC and eventually lead to the failure. Thus, service
providers need to understand the factors affecting OHC user behaviour and take effective
measures to facilitate usersknowledge sharing behaviour.
Previous research has identified a few determinants of OHC user behaviour such as trust
(Zhao et al., 2016; Fan and Lederman, 2018), social support (Yan et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2018)
and privacy concern (Kordzadeh and Warren, 2017; Zhang et al., 2018). However, these
studies have seldom disclosed the internal decision process underlying usersknowledge
sharing on OHC. In other words, the effect mechanism of external factors on OHC users
internal behavioural decision remains a black box. This may undermine our understanding
of OHC user behaviour. In this research, we adopted the stimulus-organism-response (SOR)
Data Technologies and
Vol. 53 No. 4, 2019
pp. 442-455
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/DTA-03-2019-0044
Received 23 March 2019
Revised 10 July 2019
6 August 2019
Accepted 28 August 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71771069, 71831006,
71810107003), and NSFC-Zhejiang Joint Fund for t he Integration of Industrialization and Informatization

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