Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Health Literacy and Twitter Synergy: #healthlit

Friday, October 8th, 2010

On October 4th, the Twitter accounts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social media (@CDC_eHealth) and healthfinder.gov (@healthfinder) proposed a chat on October 7th with a hashtag of #healthlit to discuss the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy developed by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

What happened on Twitter during that hour still blows my mind away 20 hours later as I’m writing this.

I and quite a few librarians, library-related folks & library Twitter accounts (medical and others) were there along with federal, state &  local/county-level agencies with health information interests, hospitals, regular media, healthcare social media strategists, health information vendors, health educators, public health educators, and countless others.

We were probably supposed to follow a semi-structured question/discussion format centering on the health literacy action plan that is gently cattle prodded moderated as most scheduled Twitter chats are.

That’s not quite what happened.

The energetic passion that resulted from everyone seeking to connect, share and learn about each other’s strategies and approaches for health literacy were contagious to the point of being an instant online pandemic. It was chaotic. It was overwhelming. It was the first time I saw the MedlinePlus Twitter account (@medlineplus4you) be quite engaged in a hashtag chat including direct replies to others… putting the social in a National Library of Medicine social media channel.

It was one of the most unexpected and amazing community flashmob experiences I’ve been a part of on Twitter. I was just one small voice contributing the Medical Library Association’s and the National Network of Libraries of Medicines’ health literacy resources and supporting the discussion about MedlinePlus, NIHSeniorhealth and the Information RX program.

Other health literacy resources I managed to gulp from the firehose (besides the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy) were

  1. Health Literacy Online (fantastic ODPHP resource covering how to write & design easy-to-read websites)
  2. The Plain Language Medical Dictionary Widget (University of Michigan)
  3. Clear Communication: An NIH Health Literacy Initiative (National Institutes of Health)
  4. Talk To Your Doctor (part of NIH Clear Communication)
  5. Talking With Your Doctor (National Institute on Aging)
  6. Improving Health Literacy for Older Adults (PDF, CDC)
  7. Improving Communication with Older Patients (AAFP)
  8. Health Literacy for Public Health Professionals (online health tutorial, CDC)
  9. Health Information for All by 2015 (HIFA2015)
  10. Health Literacy Studies (Harvard)
  11. MEDLINE/PubMed Search and Health Literacy Information Resources (NLM)

For me, the most exciting thing was having people from so many perspectives coming together with so much enthusiasm to discuss health literacy. Not a single one of us (or the agencies we work for) has The Only Right Answer: if we did, everyone would already understand medical information and there wouldn’t be a national action plan to improve it.

With everyone continuing to come together and all perspectives being heard, that is very likely to change. I can’t even begin to cover the multiple threads addressing accessibility, jargon, acronyms, disparities, specialized health needs (rural, seniors, etc) that were part of the conversation beyond resource sharing. There is a WTHashtag archive but it’s very hard to follow these threads there. I am excited about additional discussions and future collaboration opportunities though and will keep writing as I learn more about how to get involved.

Rethinking failure: Google Wave

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

For a blogger, covering the demise of Google Wave as announced on August 4th several weeks later is rather slow but it’s given me time to reflect. Laikas did a great job getting the news out quickly to the medical library community, especially the part about where there is still perceived value in Wave from a health information technology perspective for electronic medical records.

I am glad I wrote up the coverage of Seattle’s use of Google Wave during a chaotic manhunt last fall from a community emergency communication perspective and hope Google is taking the lessons learned about how people used Wave to seek and add information into new communication channels to experiment with.

Was Wave an “outright failure” on Google’s part? Perhaps not.

Posted on Slate’s The Wrong Stuff the day before the Google Wave announcement was an interview with Peter Norvig, Google’s director of research. If you’re not familiar with The Wrong Stuff it was supposed to be a brief series of eight people discussing the role of error in their lives and professional fields. Thankfully they have agreed to continue the series and I highly recommend adding their RSS feed to your reader since they are fairly intermittent but well worth checking out when they publish.

Part of the first answer alone should grab you, bold emphasis mine:

If you’re a politician, admitting you’re wrong is a weakness, but if you’re an engineer, you essentially want to be wrong half the time. If you do experiments and you’re always right, then you aren’t getting enough information out of those experiments. You want your experiment to be like the flip of a coin: You have no idea if it is going to come up heads or tails. You want to not know what the results are going to be.

and further on down:

I’ve been at both ends. My previous job was at NASA, where you really don’t want your shuttles to blow up very often. So there they spend hundreds of millions of dollars to protect their astronauts’ lives. Here, we’re kind of at the other end. Failure is always an option at Google.

I encourage reading the whole article for some reflection, especially where he has an interesting take on library sciences technology (hint: not favorable or accurate in my opinion). From my limited time and perspective in the field thus far I see a lot of the library field as fearing and avoiding failure at almost all costs. Perfectionism can sometimes run so rampant that it squelches any hint of innovation in its path, yet it is innovation that leads to experiments in the first place.

Are libraries so NASA-caliber that failure can never be an option? No. Mark Funk reminded us in 2008 that “We Have Always Done It That Way” isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse. At the same time library science journals seem to follow suit with not publishing about failure often as other journals do in not publishing when drug experiments failed.

I can understand why: it takes a lot of extra time and effort that many librarians do not have to write for publication, and who wants that to highlight a failure? Is there an opportunity for a Wrong Stuff resource of library-related errors and experiments gone wrong so we’re not all reinventing the wheel in isolation from one another? The publish button in WordPress makes the process pretty painless!

Social Media in Health & Medicine (and Reference? Emergencies?)

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

It was a pleasure to participate in Highlight Health‘s hosting of Social Media in Health and Medicine, Medlibs Round 2.7. Thank you for an excellent compilation and presentation, Walter!

I’ve been talking about social media a lot here recently, I have just a few more updates related to social media then I’ll move on to other subjects.

Twitter as Government Agency Reference Source

I am encouraged by the step the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has taken by announcing they will monitor a hashtag, #findsamhsa, to assist people who are seeking information from their numerous helpful pamphlets and online resources. So far I haven’t seen where people have used the hashtag except in retweets, but the agency’s willingness to try this way to engage in assisting health information seekers is commendable. I’d suggest they include a blurb about it on their social media page though so others will know about this service after this scrolls off the immediate horizon from their Twitter posts. We already know how I feel about #pubmed so I won’t rehash that hashtag.

Increased Social Media Use in Emergencies – 74% of Those Posting Expect Help in 1 Hour

Everyone needs to review the report of a Red Cross survey released this week about the usage of social media in emergencies. Of course, the first step should always be to call your emergency services number (911 in the United States) but what if the phone lines are down? 1 in 5 of the 1,058 adult participants would try to get help via email, websites or social media.

What was particularly notable are the expectations people have when they use social media in this way, bold emphasis mine

Web users also have clear expectations about how first responders should be answering their requests. The survey showed that 69 percent said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites in order to quickly send help—and nearly half believe a response agency is probably already responding to any urgent request they might see.

And the survey respondents expected quick response to an online appeal for help—74 percent expected help to come less than an hour after their tweet or Facebook post.

and

More web users say they get their emergency information from social media than from a NOAA weather radio, government website or emergency text message system. One in five social media users also report posting eyewitness accounts of emergency events to their accounts.

The National Weather Service has taken a step in this direction by encouraging the use of the #wxreport hashtag for severe weather events… but the reality is you can’t preassign a hashtag to be used in an emergency. People will inherently create their own individual ones, the local social media community will reach a hive mind consensus on what it is, and onward it goes. From my perspective this is why agency social media channels need to build relationships so they are aware of who their audience is and what they are discussing, so in an emergency the agency will know what specific hashtag will be most useful to convey information to those who need it.

National Library of Medicine on Facebook

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The National Library of Medicine debuted a Facebook fan page March 1st. While I knew about it due to all my friends on Facebook hopping on board, the announcement about the page was sent via a traditional listserv (which I’m not on) when it launched but didn’t make it to the web-based NLM Technical Bulletin (which I have an RSS subscription to) until 9 days later. Why such a delay instead of announcing in both communication channels at once?

NLM announces Facebook page March 10, posted to listserv March 1

The stated goal of the page is “to share news, information, fun facts and important links with interested readers.”

The moderator of the page replied to a user’s question about the NLM Style Guide thus helping others who may have the same question about it too. Way to go and keep up the responsiveness to your fans, NLM!

a user asks for more information about NLM style, the moderator responds with a link to the free source information