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Toward a theory of online communication in illness: concept analysis of illness blogs


  • Catherine McGeehin Heilferty

    1. Catherine McGeehin Heilferty MSN RN Instructor School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, Holy Family University, Philadelphia, USA
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Title. Toward a theory of online communication in illness: concept analysis of illness blogs.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a concept analysis of illness blogs and their relevance to nursing research on communication during illness.

Background.  Blogs are being used by patients and family members to describe the experience of illness, but very little is known about this phenomenon.

Data sources.  Seventeen English language databases and one Internet search engine were searched from 1990 to 2007 using the truncated term ‘blog*’. Specific illness terms together with ‘blog*’, for example, blog* and diabetes; and blog* and cancer, were used to expand the search.

Review methods.  Reports were included if they were of qualitative or quantitative research that included a definition of blogs or blogging and some identification or description of blog uses pertinent to the discipline. Specific emphasis was placed on blog use by individuals coping with illness experiences. ‘Meta’ writings by authors about their own blogging intentions and experiences were excluded.

Results.  An illness blog is the online expression of the narrative of illness. Theoretical and operational definitions, defining attributes, uses, antecedents and consequences were developed. The literature search returned 45 works from 17 disciplines referring to the definition and uses of blogging. Support is offered from the review of literature and analysis of the concept for the development of a theory of online communication during illness.

Conclusion.  Reading and incorporating illness blogs into care will enhance patient-provider relationships. Analysis of the narratives being created online about the illness experience will contribute significantly to nursing’s body of knowledge.