A Study of the Communication Patterns of Participants in
Consumer Health Electronic Discussion Groups
Natalie A. Schoch
Kellogg Science and Technology Center
Battle Creek, MI
Marilyn Domas White
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland, College Park, MD
            This study analyzes and compares the interactions in two listservs, one dealing with a chronic illness (diabetes), the other with a more acute disease (colon cancer). Data consist of 1000 messages from each list randomly selected during Fall 1996 (N=2000). The messages were analyzed with Robert Bales' transactional analysis schema for small group interactions. The analysis focuses on categorizing messages by problem orientation and into socio-emotional areas having both positive and negative reactions and into task areas for both asking questions and providing information. Besides the list-based analyses, the analysis also looks, for each list, at differences in the messages transmitted by different categories of participants: patients; caregivers, relatives, and friends; and medical professionals.