Earlier this morning, Dr. Dhand, our principal investigator, presented at the International Social Networks Sunbelt Conference in Brighton, England. We’ve been researching how stroke patients’ social networks affect their arrival time to the hospital. It is crucial for patients to arrive at the hospital as soon as possible after stroke occurs. Time sensitive therapies can only be administered within the first few hours after stroke onset. Through the use of network analysis, we hoped to identify patterns between stroke patients’ arrival times and the structure and composition of their networks.
In studying the support networks of 57 mild to moderate ischemic stroke patients, we’ve been able to see significant differences in patients that arrive quickly versus those that arrive later. Patients that arrive at the hospital within the window to receive time sensitive therapies tend to have larger networks with more structural holes. In short, these patients have many weak connections. These weakly connected social contacts tend to only associate with the patient and not other people in the network (see figure B above). In contrast, patients that arrive later tend to have smaller and more highly constrained networks, meaning the majority of the social contacts in the network are very close to one another (figure A). This information could be helpful in formulating possible network interventions in the future to encourage faster arrival times to the hospital after stroke onset.