Professional Online Community Membership and Participation Among Healthcare Providers

An extension to nurse practitioners and physician assistants

By Kevin R. Betts Amie C. O'Donoghue Kathryn J. Aikin Bridget J. Kelly Vanessa Boudewyns

Professional online communities allow healthcare providers to exchange ideas with their colleagues about best practices for patient care. Research on this topic has focused almost exclusively on primary care physicians and specialists, to the exclusion of advanced practice providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We expand this literature by examining membership and participation on these websites among each of these provider groups.

Methods: Participants (N = 2008; approximately 500 per provider group) responded to an Internet-based survey in which they were asked if they use professional online communities to dialogue with colleagues and if so, what their motivation is for doing so.

Conclusions: Nearly half of the participants in our sample reported utilizing professional online communities. Select differences were observed between provider groups, but overall, similar patterns emerged in their membership and participation on these websites.

Implications for Practice: Nurse practitioners and physician assistants utilize professional online communities in similar proportion to primary care physicians and specialists. Providers should be cognizant of the impact this use may have for both themselves and their patients. Researchers are urged to take into account the various professional roles within the healthcare community while developing research on this topic.

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