To read this content please select one of the options below:

Predicting Users’ willingness to diffuse healthcare knowledge in social media: A communicative ecology perspective?

Xiao-Ling Jin (School of Management, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China)
Zhongyun Zhou (School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, Shanghai, China)
Xiaoyu Yu (School of Management, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Shanghai University, Shanghai, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 18 February 2019

Issue publication date: 23 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to investigate why users are willing to diffuse healthcare knowledge in social media by drawing on the communicative ecology theory (CET) and prior research on interpersonal communication.


This paper conducts a large-scale scenario-based online survey in WeChat (the most popular social media platform in China) to test the proposed research model and hypotheses. The final data set consists of 1,039 useful responses from WeChat users.


The results indicate that interestingness, emotionality and institution-based trust are the strongest antecedents in predicting healthcare knowledge-diffusing likelihood, followed by usefulness, source credibility and positivity. Further, the relationship between institution-based trust and healthcare knowledge-diffusing likelihood is partially mediated by source credibility.

Practical implications

Healthcare practitioners who seek to motivate individuals to disseminate healthcare knowledge need to phrase or frame healthcare knowledge in a way that draws greater interest, evokes stronger emotion, increases perceived usefulness or reflects positively on themselves. Healthcare organizations should also pay attention to strengthening users’ trust in the platform and source-related information that can indicate source authority.


This study is one of the first to investigate the dissemination of healthcare knowledge in the context of social media (WeChat in particular). Compared with other types of information, healthcare knowledge is more scientific and professional to the extent that most laypersons do not have relevant expertise to directly evaluate whether the content is credible and of high quality. Rather, their sharing likelihood is dependent more on other factors than perceived information quality and credibility; those factors include platform-related factors that may play an important role but has been overlooked in prior literature on interpersonal communication. By combining CET with interpersonal communication-related research and including institution-based trust as an important determinant of healthcare knowledge dissemination, this study provides a comprehensive analysis of healthcare knowledge diffusion process.



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos 71872112 and 71871162) and Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (Humanities and Social Sciences Research Fund 17YJC630237).


Jin, X.-L., Zhou, Z. and Yu, X. (2019), "Predicting Users’ willingness to diffuse healthcare knowledge in social media: A communicative ecology perspective?", Information Technology & People, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 1044-1064.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles