Peer adoption and development of health innovations by patients: national representative study of 6204 citizens

Pedro Oliveira, Leid Zejnilovic, Salome Azevedo, Ana Maria Rodrigues, Helena Canhão

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is growing evidence that many patients and caregivers innovate by developing new solutions to cope with their health disorders. Given the easy access to vast internet resources and peers globally, it is increasingly important to understand what may influence user innovation and its adoption in health for improving individual well-being and ensuring their safety, in particular, how interactions with peers and physicians or search behavior, along with sociodemographics, may influence the decision to develop a solution or adopt one developed by a peer. Objective: The aim of this paper was to study the development and peer-to-peer adoption of user innovations in health care and identify individual-level factors associated with these processes. Methods: Data were collected via computer-assisted phone survey from a large, random, and representative sample of adult residents in Portugal (N=6204). User innovation questions were added to 1 wave of an ongoing observational, longitudinal, population-based epidemiological study. By asking about individual innovation activity, the sample was split into 3 groups: (1) the developers of health-related solutions for own use (developers), (2) the adopters of solutions developed by other patients or caregivers (peer-to-peer adopters), and (3) the rest of the population. Within the last group, intention to adopt was measured and used as a proxy of future behavior. Regression analysis is used to test the associations. Results: In the population considered in this paper, an estimated 1.3% (75/6008) reported having developed a solution for own use and 3.3% reported to have adopted a solution developed by peers. The 3 groups (developers, adopters, and remaining population) have distinctive characteristics. Gender plays an important role in the solution development, as women are less likely to develop one (odds ratio [OR] 0.4, 95% CI 0.20-0.81; P<.05). Education is positively associated with the development activity (OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.03-1.24; P<.05) but also with the intentions to adopt a peer-developed solution. Search for health-related information is positively associated with the development, adoption, and the intentions to adopt a solution. Interactions with peers over the internet are rare, but in-person interactions are frequent and have a positive association with the dependent variables in all 3 groups. The results also suggest that trust in doctors represents an important dimension that shapes the attitudes of the population toward peer-developed solutions. Conclusions: This paper demonstrates the importance of the peer community, doctor-patient relationship, citizen's search for information on innovation, and individual attitudes toward peer-to-peer adoption in health care. It stresses the need for a reliable Web-based health-related information and the necessity to deeper understand complex relationships between the need to improve health and fulfill the need and the perception of the health care system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11726
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2019


  • Citizen
  • Patient
  • Innovation
  • Therapeutics
  • Health
  • Development
  • Adoption
  • Physician-patient relations
  • Social interactions
  • Search engine


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