Psychiatric Patients Tracking Through a Private Social Network for Relatives: Development and Pilot Study

  • Francisco J. García-Peñalvo
  • Manuel Franco Martín
  • Alicia García-HolgadoEmail author
  • José Miguel Toribio Guzmán
  • Jesús Largo Antón
  • Ma. Cruz Sánchez-Gómez
Patient Facing Systems
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. New Trends in Computer Applications in Health Sciences (TEEM 2015)


The treatment of psychiatric patients requires different health care from that of patients from other medical specialties. In particular, in the case of Department of Psychiatry from the Zamora Hospital (Spain), the period of time which patients require institutionalized care is a tiny part of their treatment. A large part of health care provided to the patient is aimed at his/her rehabilitation and social integration through day-care centres, supervised flats or activities. Conversely, several reports reveal that approximately 50 % of Internet users use the network as a source of health information, which has led to the emergence of virtual communities where patients, relatives or health professionals share their knowledge concerning an illness, health problem or specific health condition. In this context, we have identified that the relatives have a lack of information regarding the daily activities of patients under psychiatric treatment. The social networks or the virtual communities regarding health problems do not provide a private space where relatives can follow the patient’s progress, despite being in different places. The goal of the study was to use technologies to develop a private social network for being used by severe mental patients (mainly schizophrenic patients). SocialNet is a pioneer social network in the health sector because it provides a social interaction context restricted to persons authorized by the patient or his/her legal guardian in such a way that they can track his/her daily activity. Each patient has a private area only accessible to authorized persons and their caregivers, where they can share pictures, videos or texts regarding his/her progress. A preliminary study of usability of the system has been made for increasing the usefulness and usability of SocialNet. SocialNet is the first system for promoting personal interactions among formal caregivers, family, close friends and patient, promoting the recovery of schizophrenic patients. Future studies should study the network’s potential usefulness for improving the prognosis and recovery of schizophrenia.


Social network Mental health Usability Patient care system Information system 



This research was performed within the University of Salamanca PhD Programme on Education in the Knowledge Society scope ( and was supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte under a FPU fellowship (FPU014/04783), the Research Group in InterAction and eLearning (GRIAL) ( and INTRAS Foundation (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco J. García-Peñalvo
    • 1
  • Manuel Franco Martín
    • 2
  • Alicia García-Holgado
    • 1
    Email author
  • José Miguel Toribio Guzmán
    • 3
  • Jesús Largo Antón
    • 1
  • Ma. Cruz Sánchez-Gómez
    • 4
  1. 1.Computer Sciences Department, Research Institute for Educational Sciences, GRIAL Research GroupUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryZamora HospitalZamoraSpain
  3. 3.Iberian Institute for Research in PsychosciencesINTRAS FoundationZamoraSpain
  4. 4.Department of Didactics, Organization and Research MethodsUniversity of SalamancaSalamancaSpain

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