5 Ways Health Professionals Can Take Back the Internet

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:

  1. @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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. #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.
  5. 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.


2 thoughts on “5 Ways Health Professionals Can Take Back the Internet

  1. Thanks for adding context to your slides. I tweeted @drval Val Jones, M.D. to find out how the @HealthyRT:disqus project is doing after starting up just one month ago. She responded (with lightening speed I might add)
    “RT @drval: @colleen_young @HealthyRT:twitter  I’ve just organized 25 reviewers and will publish their academic bios on the blog shortly. Then they will begin.”
    It’ll be worth watching.


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