Communicating personal health information in virtual health communities: an integration of privacy calculus model and affective commitment
Health consumers such as patients and caregivers join virtual health communities (VHCs) and exchange social support with other users on these websites. Communicating personal health information (PHI) in public discussions is a part of these support exchange activities. Despite the benefits that sharing PHI in this context can offer for both information owner and community, it may entail privacy risks and concerns for individuals, which may ultimately hamper user participation. Moreover, individuals' affective commitment may affect their PHI sharing behaviors within virtual environments. Thus, drawing on the privacy calculus model and the notion of affective commitment, we developed a theoretical model and empirically tested it to examine how various factors impact communicating PHI in public discussions within VHCs. A survey was administered to individuals from three different populations that included students, faculty, and staff at UTSA and visitors to clinics. The results revealed that privacy concern along with expected personal and community-related outcomes of sharing PHI directly affects the willingness to communicate PHI in public VHC discussions. The results, however, refuted the hypothesized direct and moderating effects of affective commitment on willingness to share PHI in these virtual platforms. The findings provide contributions to research and practice.