How might social media help those working in haematology and blood transfusion services and research?
This was one of the questions addressed at a recent Australian Red Cross Blood service meeting in Sydney by Carolyn Der Vartanian, Program Leader for the NSW Blood Watch program at the Clinical Excellence Commission.
Scary new pathogens or a communications revolution?
Carolyn Der Vartanian writes:
At the annual Australian Red Cross Blood Service scientific meeting held in Sydney recently, all things blood were up for discussion. Issues around the possibilities of emerging infectious disease in our blood system, adverse events in blood donors, the new and ground-breaking Patient Blood Management Guidelines, new trends in haemophilia and Hepatitis B and what constitutes ideal transfusion practice were all discussed.
Under the theme of “Influencing Clinician Behaviour” my presentation on social media was wedged between a talk about a terrific and popular national e-Learning program, and a very effective ‘educational visiting’ initiative between the South Australian Drug and Therapeutic Information Service and GP’s about the pre-operative management of patients with iron deficiency anaemia.
I assumed a novice audience – however a show of hands indicated more than half have a Facebook account, less were on Twitter, and no one thought social media was a passing fad (what a relief!), but a majority could not access social media applications from their work computers. A small number had used social media tools in a professional or work-related capacity.
It would be very premature to suggest we have reached the ‘tipping point’ of social media usage in the Australian healthcare setting!
For an audience whose primary professional focus is blood and transfusion, the challenge was to show that social media can play an important and valid role in peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, influencing, listening or talking with clinicians and scientist. For clinicians who place immense importance on face-to-face conversations with patients and peers, spending yet more time on a computer immersed in ‘virtual conversations’ is not overly appealing.
I showcased a whole-of-organisation approach to implementing a social media strategy – using what I learnt and saw during my visit to the Mayo Clinic in 2011. However, without a million dollar investment it was important to show what the active and meaningful use of social media looked like for those of us working in transfusion medicine.
There are already plenty of people Tweeting about blood transfusion, blood donation, haematology, and research related to blood and transfusion.
Clinical scenarios about complex transfusion-related cases on blogs are numerous, providing opportunities for clinicians to debate or discuss the situations where transfusion may or may not be appropriate or perhaps the impact of a dwindling blood supply in a rural emergency setting:
The recruitment of Australian blood donors already has a distinct presence on Facebook, offering opportunities for potential donors to learn more about the process and ask questions of the Blood Service or other donors. With a shrinking donor pool and a greater demand on supply, what better forum than Facebook to recruit a future generation of donors?
Pacific Island colleagues in the audience were particularly interested in the use of Facebook to drive a Volunteer Donor Program to increase the donation opportunities.
Whilst I did not include an overview about the risks and privacy considerations for healthcare professionals using social media, the Q&A at the end reflected that these remain barriers to the uptake of social media tools.
A question from a senior anaesthetist highlighted the reality of mobile technology in a patient-centred clinical setting: how can we stop clinicians, junior and senior, from texting or browsing on their smartphones during serious clinical situations?
He relayed a recent account of having to ‘address’ such behaviour during a medically complex situation. Unfortunately this was not the first time I had heard such a case. I took the question to the Twitterverse:
There are multiple and complex messages in the transfusion and blood sectors. Leveraging off the power of social media to engage with the right groups, broaden reach and perhaps even fast track research into clinical practice makes sense.
Grand rounds, e-Learning programs, conferences and educational face-to-face meetings remain important and tested strategies for clinician engagement. However, they rarely act as a standalone intervention and nor would the use of social media tools.
I urged the audience to consider and participate in social media as another way to communicate and share their knowledge. I took the general enthusiastic shaking of heads to mean that my audience could see the opportunities to extend their conversations beyond the three days of this meeting.
• Carolyn Der Vartanian is Program Leader for the NSW Blood Watch program at the Clinical Excellence Commission. Follow @carolyndv