Social Support System:ONE

 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Computer technology has made communication possible from one part of the world to the other in seconds. We can see the transactions in one part of the world while staying in the other part. Computer development is one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century. Computers are used in various fields as well as in teaching and learning. We have computer application fields in Banking, Industries, Engineering Design, Road Traffic control, Medicine and so on.
Computers are widely used in hospitals for such task as maintaining drugs, surgical equipments, payroll, checkup and treatment of diseases. Computers also features in communication in healthcare where it's being use for chatting and electronic mail services to enhance interactions between patient and doctors which consequently leads to the development of various social support system.
 Social support is generally defined within the context of interpersonal relationships as exchange of emotional, informational, or instrumental support between individuals (Hogan, Linden & Najarian, 2002; Lin & Bhattacherjee, 2009).  When a person has support readily available to them, such as being with supportive friends when a stressful event occurs, they have a diminished stress response and are thus more readily able to deal with the stressor than if they were alone. Essentially, a person is empowered by having others around them when faced with distress. Hogan, Linden & Najarian (2002).  Studies showed that people participating in support groups or other types of support group interventions benefited from both receiving and giving support to individuals dealing with the same or similar issue(s). Participating in a social support group will not make one feel as alone or as if one is the only sufferer, one will learn new ways to deal with a problem, and one may try harder to overcome it.
Online social networks allow users to connect with each other by overcoming geographic and time boundaries.  Patients or their caregivers often turn to the Internet to seek support (i.e. advice and words of wisdom, sharing experiences). This will impact the traditional patient-doctor relationship. According to Kielstra (2009), over a million users and hundreds of patient communities can communicate through forums, profiles or journals. An online community such as a social networking site is a place where registered users create profiles about themselves, upload photos, keep in touch with friends and make new friends with common interests. Boyd, et al (2007).
Online Social Support System gives access to information; where a fellow sufferer has the ability to share one’s own experiences which in turn empowers the members of the group. (Barak Boniel-Nissim & Suler, 2008)  For these reasons, amongst others, the internet has become a new interface for social support, increasing individuals’ capacity to access and share information through online social support network. As a result, individuals increasingly seek social support through the Internet, which helps build, foster and maintain online social support network (Bhattacherjee & Lin, 2002,).
Unlike face-to-face interactions where time is a limiting factor, Online Social Support system provide greater socio-emotional communication in the absence of time constraints (LaCoursiere, 2003).  The online medium not only provides the unlimited access to information but also flexibility in terms of correspondence.
Examples of some social support systems are:
·         South Africa Bipolar Disorder group; a social support system for mentally derailed people.
·         Alcoholics Anonymous, groups for people trying to get sober and those trying to remain sober Mended Hearts, a group for patients who have undergone bypass or other heart surgery procedures.
·          Make Today Count, a group for cancer survivors
·         Gamblers Anonymous, groups for people who are trying to stop gambling or who are trying to remain free of a gambling addiction.
·         Medhelp, a free online health community that connects people with medical experts and others who have similar experiences. Each day, members visit MedHelp to receive the support they need from other patients like them, and to share their knowledge with others in need.

1.2 Statement of the problem
There are various systems and methods used to interact and exchange communication in the world today. These types of systems include chatting, electronic mailing, video conferencing social networking and so on. People generally use almost all these social network for different purposes like economic, business, advertising, transferring of files, interacting, watching movies and uploading or downloading pictures. Likewise in the health sector, there is a need for a social support system for patients having health related issues to interact and pass information.

In 2006, in the USA almost 8 million people searched the web for health information every day, and these numbers have been maintained for the last three years according to the Pew Internet and Life Project (Fox, 2006). In addition to strictly informational web sites, numerous offerings exist that allow user-to-user interaction by such means as mailing lists, newsgroups or chat rooms (Dannecker and Lechner, 2006, 2007). Online personal health information management is also getting more attention in research (Pratt et al., 2006). A study conducted by Daum (2005) showed that interaction services have become increasingly popular on infertility-related issues.
In Nigeria, there is a lack of publicly available Social Support Systems for infertile couples; therefore, an Investigation into the Accessibility and Affordability of online social support Systems in Nigeria is required.

1.3 Justification of the Study
With social network like facebook, twitter, google chrome, yahoo chats, gmail chats and others, social support network in healthcare may not work because these social networks are opened to anyone that is: the general public can have an easy access to them. Confidentiality is not properly put in place in all these social networks. Therefore, there is a need to develop an online community that will manage some group of people suffering the same problem to share and interact with fellow sufferer. In online social support settings where participation is open to anyone there is a lack of regulation of information shared, which can lead to potentially dangerous information/advice.  Winzelberg’s (2007) studies reported that there were several posts offering medical advice which were deemed by the researchers to be outside of acceptable medical standards for patients.  With these concerns in mind, there is a need to develop more effective forms of online social support interventions. 

1.4 Aim/Objectives of the project
The main aim of the proposed system is to develop a social support system that will manage a community of people that have health related issues.
The objectives of this project include:
1.      To review related projects on Social Support System
2.       Design of an Online Social Support System.
3.      Implementing the system.


1.5 Research methodology
The methods that will be used in developing this system include the following:
1.      Reviewing existing design and data of past project related to this proposed systems.
2.      UML(Unified Modeling Language) for the design
3.      PHP(Hypertext-Preprocessor) for implementation and My SQL(Structured Query Language)  for  the data.

1.6 Scope of the project
This project will be limited to the design and implementation of an online social support system for infertility in healthcare. The Social support system will be managed by Health Information System (HIS) group in Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife.  Also, recent and useful articles as regards fertility will be posted on the website on timely basis. These articles may be in different forms and it will generally put into consideration those things about infertility. Some of those articles could involve:

a.       Causes of Infertility
b.      Infertility in men
c.       Infertility in women.


d.       

1.7 Definition of concepts
·         Marconi (2008) defines Electronic-health as an application of Internet and other related technologies in the healthcare industry to improve access, efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of clinical and business processes utilized by healthcare.
·         The Health Informatics is the use of computer technologies in healthcare to store, share, transmit and analyze clinical knowledge and data.
·         Infertility primarily refers to the biological inability of a person (either male or female) to contribute to conception.
·         Social networking is a way for people to connect and share information with each other online. Millions of people worldwide regularly access these types of services from mobile devices, applications, and websites. There are more than 500 million active users on Facebook, 175 million registered users on Twitter more than 100 million users on MySpace, and more than 80 million members on LinkedIn. (Facebook Factsheet. Jan., 3, 2011)
·         Social support is generally understood as the support and assistance provided by others which fosters a belief that the individual is loved, esteemed and cared for. (chronister J. A. et al, 2006)





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