Visualization of e-Health Research Topics and Current Trends Using Social Network Analysis

Youn-Jung Son, Senator Jeong, Byeong-Gwon Kang, Sun-Hyung Kim, Soo-Kyoung Lee
Telemedicine Journal and E-health 2015, 21 (5): 436-42

BACKGROUND: E-health has been grown rapidly with significant impact on quality and safety of healthcare. However, there is a large gap between the postulated and empirically demonstrated benefits of e-health technologies and a need for a clearer mapping of its conceptual domains. Therefore, this study aimed to critically review the main research topics and trends of international e-health through social network analysis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Medical subject heading terms were used to retrieve 3,023 research articles published from 1979 through 2014 in the PubMed database. We extracted n-grams from the corpus using a text analysis program, generated co-occurrence networks, and then analyzed and visualized the networks using Pajek software. The hub and authority measures identified the most important research topics in e-health. Newly emerging topics by 4-year period units were identified as research trends.

RESULTS: The most important research topics in e-health are personal health records (PHR), health information technology, primary care, mobile health, clinical decision support systems (CDSS), and so on. The eight groups obtained through ego network analysis can be divided into four semantically different areas, as follows: information technology, infrastructure, services, and subjects. Also, four historical trends in e-health research are identified: the first focusing on e-health and telemedicine; the second, PHR and monitoring; the third, CDSS and alert; and the fourth, mobile health and health literacy.

CONCLUSIONS: This study promotes a systematic understanding of e-health by identifying topic networks, thereby contributing to the future direction of e-health research and education.

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