Informal Payments and Doctor Engagement in Online Health Community: An Empirical Investigation Using Generalized Synthetic Control

Posted: 3 Nov 2020

See all articles by Qili Wang

Qili Wang

Renmin University of China - School of Information

Liangfei Qiu

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration

Wei Xu

Renmin University of China - School of Information

Date Written: September 12, 2020

Abstract

Online health communities are growing rapidly as more individuals seek health information online. Given the importance of doctor engagement, some online health communities have introduced informal payments to doctors to encourage knowledge sharing. In this paper, we empirically examine how informal payments in the form of monetary gifts affect doctor engagement. We leverage the launch of a gifting feature by a leading online health community as a natural experiment that exogenously provides doctors with extra monetary incentives. By adopting multiple strategies to strengthen causal identification, we find that the introduction of informal payments negatively affects doctors’ responses to medical consultations. Our results indicate a crowding-out effect of informal payments on doctors’ intrinsic motivation of contribution. Interestingly, our consultation-level analysis suggests that monetary and non-monetary gifts have distinct roles in motivating doctors’ responses. A non-monetary gift has a more significant carryover effect on follow-up interactions and is more conducive to promoting the doctor-patient relationship. We also find that social status has a moderating effect on the impact of digital gifting on online engagement. Our research has important implications for research and practice. In addition to contributing to the literature on informal payments, our results provide useful implications for online health communities that have implemented or are planning to implement digital gifting to stimulate user engagement.

Keywords: digital gifting, informal payments, healthcare, online community

Suggested Citation

Wang, Qili and Qiu, Liangfei and Xu, Wei, Informal Payments and Doctor Engagement in Online Health Community: An Empirical Investigation Using Generalized Synthetic Control (September 12, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3691702

Qili Wang

Renmin University of China - School of Information

No.59, Zhongguancun Avenue
Haidian District
Beijing, Beijing 100872
China

HOME PAGE: http://jeffqiliwang.github.io

Liangfei Qiu (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration ( email )

Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/qiuliangfei/

Wei Xu

Renmin University of China - School of Information ( email )

Room B906
Xianjin Building
Beijing, Beijing 100872
China

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
210
PlumX Metrics