Skip to main content

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. MSSSI, Catálogo Nacional de Hospitales. Ministerio de Sanidad, Servicios Sociales e Igualdad, Spain, 2015.

  2. BOE., Ley 16/2003, de 28 de mayo, de cohesión y calidad del Sistema Nacional de Salud. Jefatura del Estado, Spain, 2003.

  3. Lasebikan, V. O., Owoaje, E. T., and Asuzu, M. C., Social network as a determinant of pathway to mental health service utilization among psychotic patients in a Nigerian hospital. Ann. Afr. Med. 11(1):12–20, 2012. doi:10.4103/1596-3519.91010.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. von Kardorff, E., Soltaninejad, A., Kamali, M., and Eslami Shahrbabaki, M., Family caregiver burden in mental illnesses: The case of affective disorders and schizophrenia - a qualitative exploratory study. Nord. J. Psychiatry. 70(4):248–254, 2016. doi:10.3109/08039488.2015.1084372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Giron, M., Nova-Fernandez, F., Mana-Alvarenga, S., Nolasco, A., Molina-Habas, A., Fernandez-Yanez, A., Tabares-Seisdedos, R., and Gomez-Beneyto, M., How does family intervention improve the outcome of people with schizophrenia? Soc. Psychiatry Psychiatr. Epidemiol. 50(3):379–387, 2015. doi:10.1007/s00127-014-0942-9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Kemp, S., Digital in 2016. We Are Social, Singapore, 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Clarke, J., Montesinos, M., Montanera, R., and Bermúdez, A., VI Estudio Redes Sociales de IAB Spain. Interactive Advertising Bureau, Spain, 2015.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Naslund, J. A., Aschbrenner, K. A., Marsch, L. A., and Bartels, S. J., The future of mental health care: peer-to-peer support and social media. Epidemiol Psychiat Sci 25(2):113–122, 2016. doi:10.1017/S2045796015001067.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Antheunis, M. L., Tates, K., and Nieboer, T. E., Patients’ and health professionals’ use of social media in health care: Motives, barriers and expectations. Patient Educ. Couns. 92(3):426–431, 2013. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2013.06.020.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Grajales, F. J., III, Sheps, S., Ho, K., Novak-Lauscher, H., and Eysenbach, G., Social media: a review and tutorial of applications in medicine and health care. J. Med. Internet Res. 16(2), e13, 2014. doi:10.2196/jmir.2912.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Wells, D. M., Lehavot, K., and Isaac, M. L., Sounding Off on Social Media: The Ethics of Patient Storytelling in the Modern Era. Acad. Med. 90(8):1015–1019, 2015. doi:10.1097/acm.0000000000000668.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Zhang, Y., He, D., and Sang, Y. M., Facebook as a Platform for Health Information and Communication: A Case Study of a Diabetes Group. J. Med. Syst. 37(3):12, 2013. doi:10.1007/s10916-013-9942-7.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Shepherd, A., Sanders, C., Doyle, M., and Shaw, J., Using social media for support and feedback by mental health service users: thematic analysis of a twitter conversation. BMC Psychiatry. 15:29, 2015. doi:10.1186/s12888-015-0408-y.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. Schwaber K. Scrum development process. In: Business Object Design and Implementation. Springer, pp 117–134, 1997.

  15. Schwaber, K., Beedle, M., Agile Software Development with SCRUM. Pearson, 2008.

  16. Anderson, D. J., Kanban. Blue Hole Press, 2010.

  17. Kniberg, H., Skarin, M., Kanban and Scrum - making the most of both. InfoQ, 2010.

  18. Siemens, G., Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age, 2014.

  19. Di Napoli, W. A., Nollo, G., Pace, N., and Torri, E., Can clinical use of Social Media improve quality of care in mental Health? A Health Technology Assessment approach in an Italian mental health service. Psychiatr. Danub. 27(Suppl 1):S103–110, 2015.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Peek, H. S., Richards, M., Muir, O., Chan, S. R., Caton, M., and MacMillan, C., Blogging and Social Media for Mental Health Education and Advocacy: a Review for Psychiatrists. Curr. Psychiatry Rep. 17(11):88, 2015. doi:10.1007/s11920-015-0629-2.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Jeavons, B. J., Knaddison, G. J., Drupal Security White Paper, 2014.

  22. Nielsen, J., Heuristic evaluation. Usability Inspec Methods 17(1):25–62, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Naslund, J. A., Grande, S. W., Aschbrenner, K. A., and Elwyn, G., Naturally occurring peer support through social media: the experiences of individuals with severe mental illness using YouTube. PLoS One 9(10), e110171, 2014. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110171.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. Lee, K. K., Yamada, A. M., Kim, M. A., and Dinh, T. Q., Interdependent recovery of adults with schizophrenia: Asian American consumer perspectives of family involvement and influence. Psychiatr. Rehabil. J. 38(3):273–275, 2015. doi:10.1037/prj0000076.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Ma, X., and Sayama, H., Mental disorder recovery correlated with centralities and interactions on an online social network. Peer J 3, e1163, 2015. doi:10.7717/peerj.1163.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  26. Lam, P. C., Ng, P., Pan, J., and Young, D. K., Ways of coping of Chinese caregivers for family members with schizophrenia in two metropolitan cities: Guangzhou and Hong Kong, China. Int. J. Soc. Psychiatry. 61(6):591–599, 2015. doi:10.1177/0020764014565797.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Chong, E. S., Zhang, Y., Mak, W. W., and Pang, I. H., Social media as social capital of LGB individuals in Hong Kong: its relations with group membership, stigma, and mental well-being. Am. J. Community Psychol. 55(1–2):228–238, 2015. doi:10.1007/s10464-014-9699-2.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Pantic, I., Online social networking and mental health. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Netw. 17(10):652–657, 2014. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0070.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. Deen, S. R., Withers, A., and Hellerstein, D. J., Mental health practitioners’ use and attitudes regarding the Internet and social media. J. Psychiatr. Pract. 19(6):454–463, 2013. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000438184.74359.88.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Lal, S., Dell’Elce, J., Tucci, N., Fuhrer, R., Tamblyn, R., and Malla, A., Preferences of Young Adults With First-Episode Psychosis for Receiving Specialized Mental Health Services Using Technology: A Survey Study. JMIR mental health 2(2), e18, 2015. doi:10.2196/mental.4400.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references


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 (

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alicia García-Holgado.

Additional information

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Patient Facing Systems

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

García-Peñalvo, F.J., Martín, M.F., García-Holgado, A. et al. Psychiatric Patients Tracking Through a Private Social Network for Relatives: Development and Pilot Study. J Med Syst 40, 172 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Social network
  • Mental health
  • Usability
  • Patient care system
  • Information system