• Open Access

Provider-sponsored virtual communities for chronic patients: improving health outcomes through organizational patient-centred knowledge management


Warren J. Winkelman MD MBA FRCPC
Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation
Centre for Global eHealth Innovation
Toronto General Hospital – University Health Network
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5G 2C4
E-mail: w.winkelman@utoronto.ca


Patients with long-term chronic disease experience numerous illness patterns and disease trends over time, resulting in different sets of knowledge needs than patients who intermittently seek medical care for acute or short-term problems. Health-care organizations can promote knowledge creation and utilization by chronic patients through the introduction of a virtual, private, disease-specific patient community. This virtual socialization alters the role of chronic disease patients from external consumers of health-care services to a ‘community of practice’ of internal customers so that, with the tacit support of their health-care organization, they have a forum supporting the integration of knowledge gained from the experiences of living with chronic disease in their self-management. Patient-centred health-care organizations can employ the virtual community to direct and support the empowerment of chronic patients in their care.