25 June 2012

Surging Social Media: Finding the Golden Info-Nugget

If you haven't heard of the Blogosphere, Twitterverse, and of course we can't forget the less-catchy moniker, but still ever popular Facebook, then this is not the post for you.

 For those of you who have heard/use them you know how powerful the impact of social media can be: highlighting information instantly & across many traditional boundaries.  It can take less than a day for something to start "Trending" on Twitter, a page or post to receive hundreds of thousands of "Likes", or for a relatively unknown Blog to become an international hit. A recent example was the KONY 2012 video campaign which first surfaced in March of this year an in less than a month had 86 million views on YouTube alone.  To say the power of social media is incredible is an understatement.  That's not to say it's all useful, truthful, or even of any quality but surely in just under 350 million tweets per day there has to be some golden nuggets of quality information, but I'll get to that in a moment.  Though health and health care may not 'Trend' as easily as some other topics it would nevertheless be wonderful if there was a way to discover at least some of the health information being written out there in the social mediasphere.


Enter the people from the TRIP database (a clinical search engine) who are attempting to do just that with their tool "Blitter" (or at least in part).  Blitter defines itself as "a clinical search engine with content highlighted by clinicians who blog or tweet" and that "If they think it's important enough to comment on, we consider it great content".  The tool is is a simple search bar where the user can type in the topic/subject of interest and hope for returned content!  The resource includes a list of contributors and the creators have defined a basic criteria for 'following' these contributors: 1) they are blogging or tweeting on clinical content 2) there is no obvious conflict of interest.  Though it's great to have criteria it should be noted that this is a very broad set.

Though most who are active in social media and health care know to take the output of these tools with a grain of salt it nevertheless is worth mentioning the dangers of taking personalized tweets and blogs at face value.  That's the beauty of the blog and tweet: people like me can have a voice to a larger audience; nevertheless, they are by no means peer-reviewed or subject to quality controls!  There is of course a time and a place where these items are useful, and if nothing else may alert one to a piece of information they may otherwise not have known about:  in the world of information it's always good to collect a range and then assess.  Blitter is one new tool to use when collecting!  The creators also make clear on the website that it is an experimental approach and welcome any feedback.

Check it out today, and while you're at it, check out the parent org. TRIP!

11 June 2012

Caring for Culture: Relevent care for all

Growing up I thought I would never plant roots in Canada: I had the travel bug from a young age and craved adventure.  It wasn't until I left the country for a few years that I began to appreciate Canada for everything that it was instead of what it wasn't (e.g. warm 52 weeks of the year! :) )

Image taken from criticalmeasures.net (no endorsement of site)
I now happily live in Toronto in an 'ethnic' area and although the definition of such an area can be as broad as the cultural makeup in my neighborhood it's one of the things I love most about this city. I love the amalgamation of differences and relish learning about these as well as the similarities across cultures.  I like to think I'm a fairly aware and culturally sensitive person but I know that my knowledge is only the tip of the iceberg and likely have very little knowledge of the plethora of cultural nuances.  Working in healthcare inside AND outside of Toronto it is increasingly important to be mindful that there is no 'Excellent Healthcare' prescription for all and that being sensitive to the cultural differences in all aspects of care is increasingly a must.

If your health care facility has a Librarian on staff they help provide you with resources and advice on this topic, or for a specific aspect of care.  It's just as important to ensure the information you are accessing on this is high quality and trusted: for example suggesting a mental health intervention to some cultures may be frowned upon or misunderstood so it is important to ensure a good working knowledge these differences to ensure optimal care and respect. 

A great free resource available online is called Ethnomed where you can browse topics by culture, specific clinical topics or even patient education materials.  If you're looking to provide a patient or family member with some information you can also check the National Network of Libraries of Medicine for quality Consumer Health info in many languages (based in the US).  You can also try the NSW, Australian government site that breaks items down by language!

These resources are by no means all there is to culturally competent care but it's a good starting place to ensuring your patients and families are respected as well as informed about the care you're providing.