Monthly Archives for May 2011
Let me start right away by saying: this presentation is not to suggest that patients cannot be involved in the promotion and sharing of high-quality health information. In fact, I believe patients, particularly those living with rare diseases, are often the ones armed with the highest quality information and the networks through which to share their stories and experience.
This presentation came out of a specific question that was posed in the brief survey that our friend and fellow health warrior Alissa sent out in advance of the Vancouver #hcsmca tweetup. The survey respondent was looking for information on how to connect, as a health professional, with various networks. Because I am a librarian and very interested in the types of information that we use to make decisions about our health, I decided to marry these two concepts in this presentation.
To sum it up: there is a lot of questionable health information out there on the Web. As we (health professionals, activated patients, and health communicators) are the ones armed with the ability to distinguish good information from questionable, I feel it is our duty to share and promote this content as much as possible through our various networks and channels on the Web.
The five examples (though there are many more) I used specifically in this presentation are:
- @HealthyRT. The HealthyRT project is a group Twitter feed that shares “peer-reviewed” health information. In other words, all tweets are monitored and the content that is shared has been approved by one of the health professionals with access to the account. My impression is that you, too, can join this group, by emailing the moderator.
- Health News Review. A must-read site that applies 10 quality criteria to news articles (HealthDay, USA Today, New York Times, etc.) about contentious health issues, such as screening tests and innovative treatment options. All reviewers are health professionals, and the editor in chief, Gary Schwitzer, writes a blog that summarizes the issues, and shares other content as well.
- Grand Rounds. A blog carnival highlighting the best of medical blogging from across the web every week. A great way to share your own content, as well as find the best bloggers writing about health and medicine day-to-day.
- #vaxfax. By far the least structured resource, vaxfax (“vaccination facts”) started out with a few people interested in sharing evidence-based information about vaccination safety. Becuase this is such a hot-button topic, I am a little unclear on how successfully this hashtag is meeting that goal. But to me, this is the perfect example of where health professionals are needed to help balance the fear-based and pseudo-scientific information that is otherwise being shared on channels like these.
- Finally, your website. Each and every organization or individual should have some sort of online presence now (this means you). The more you can create, promote and share high-quality health information the better.
The last point I made there has to do with privacy issues, and patient-provider interaction online. I use the phrase “Connect, don’t advise” to mean that it is OK to point people to the health information that you know is best, and to build a network of other professionals, patients and interested parties. What you cannot do, under any circumstance, is attempt to treat a medical issue or divulge information about specific people and health problems.
For the upcoming Canadian Health Libraries Association 2011 conference, a group of health librarians including myself are putting together a poster that traces the career paths of five qualified health librarians who all work outside of a traditional library settings. The goal of this reflection is to explore what brought us to our current positions, how the field of health librarianship is evolving, and how library and information studies Master’s programs can better prepare their students for careers that may not take place in “a library” but still call for the information professional’s skill set of searching, synthesis, instruction, and information fluency.
Because we are each tracing our own development, we wanted a theoretical frame to guide the analysis and a way to interpret one another’s responses. Additionally, we needed to account for the fact that we are all trained as librarians, but do not currently work “in libraries.” So to underpin the interview questions that we designed, we used the Chaos Theory of Career Development, which accounts for the inevitability of attractors and chance events in one’s career decision making.
The next steps include analyzing all of our responses for thematic elements, and collating those onto a poster for dicussion. The idea of a career paths got me thinking of visualizing each respondent in a color, like the subway map above. This is just one idea of how to present this visually, and I’m hoping for some more inspiration as the process goes on.
As a teaser, I’ll include one of my responses below (though you can always ask for more). I haven’t asked the others yet, but I’m hoping some of my co-presenters will agree to share some of their responses as well.
1. Describe how you came to have your current position: How did you find out about it? How and why did you obtain or create the position? How (if at all) has it evolved over the time?
I heard through a personal connection that my current position was open, and as luck would have it my immigration documents had come through after graduation and I was able to apply. I was selected for the the position through a combination of traditional librarianship skills–information retrieval, needs assessment, research synthesis, teaching–and some unique skills that I brought by either personal interest or chance–knowledge and experience with social media being foremost among them.
My position is quite flexible, and it evolves with the project load of the office as well as accommodations for personal and professional interests. Currently I work on a lot of web strategy because that is where there is a need in both practical office knowledge translation efforts as well as in research design. But I have the sense that my responsibilities will continue to shift as my skills as a librarian are taken full advantage of by my colleagues, as funding priorities ebb and flow in eHealth, and as our existing projects continue to follow their natural life cycles.
Last week I attended an event called Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver. The idea is similar to TEDx, where a local organizer puts on a series of talks for a general audience. The twist with pecha kucha is that every presenter has 20 slides and only 20 seconds on each.
This particular night was Vancouver’s 16th pecha kucha night (pronounced correctly, I think, as peh-CHUK-cha) but my first time attending. It struck me at first as a series of what were essentially advertisements: a speaker would arrive to the stage and spend the next 6:40 talking about what they do (be it in fashion, art, design, whatever).
In and of themselves, these 7 minute product pitches would be fairly entertaining since they are from local business people doing things they love, and generally finding success. The truly great pecha kucha presentations, though, take their pitch and elevate it to a message. The one that brought down the house for me was by a designer named Carson Ting, and his talk resonated because he spoke about what we try to do when we practice social media, but in the context of making commercial art. His message was, to use his words (and pardon my French): “share your creative s***.”
Essentially he explained that as an artist, he uses social and multimedia online tools to not only produce his commercial artwork, but also to document and share the process of creating it. By sharing his creative process so that others can learn and benefit from it, his art becomes much more than just the final product.
This is such an important message in social media and healthcare. We are so often caught up in not only concerns about proprietary projects (because of funding competitions) but also concerns over privacy. Sometimes, we simply “forget” to be open, or we simply get caught up in doing things the “old way,” and we default to a mode of hiding everything until there is some “success” or “final draft” that can finally be shared with the outside world.
That way of doing things hides our true thunder. It keeps others from fully knowing what we do, how we learn and improve, and plays down the fact that we are truly passionate about and creating things that can improve other people’s lives. True success today, to my mind, is when someone is able to take what you’ve done, replicate it, and build upon it. Not sharing the process shows that we have at the core a personal motive, rather than a lofty goal: improving the health system.
I’m so glad to have been at this event because it allowed me to see engaged people outside of health care who grasp the importance of social media, and the significance of being able to share the process of their work. I hope I can be better about this myself, and I hope the people I work with in the future will be, too.