Monday, 19 November 2012

reddit for #meded

Reddit is one of those sites that seems to have been around for ever but that I have not understood. More recently it has been popping up in my Twitter timeline and elsewhere more often. So in the interests of learning by discovery I became a redditor a few hours ago and promptly set up a #meded subreddit.


Well, there seems to be a few good things about reddit.

It allows threaded discussions. 
It contributes to altmetrics on research articles. 
It allows community members to vote up and down content so adding a filter to the masses of new content we come across.
It might allow deeper engagement with content that tweets. 

And there has been some good discussion so far. What do you think? 

Friday, 16 November 2012

What I have learnt about blogging

I blog...

I blog... by alamodestuff

So if you have known me on Twitter or elsewhere for a while you will know that I am a big fan of blogging and I encourage everyone to start keeping one. Why? You will learn a lot and you will help others learn too!

I started my blog just over 4 years ago. Sometimes I will write a few posts in a week and at other times I leave it for a month or two. How often you write is up to you. It shouldn't feel like a chore.Write when you have something to share, a question to ask.

Blogging is public writing. Think about who your audience is. For me a massive strength is that all kinds of people read and comment here. This means that I can learn about many more different perspectives than if I was to walk down the corridor and ask my colleagues at work what they thought of the random idea I'd just had. But sometimes people won't understand what you say, the language you use or where you are coming from. That's OK. Just as in any communication, if someone doesn't understand you then don't get angry, just try and explain in a different way.

Writing helps me to develop my thoughts and get some way to understanding what has been perplexing me. Usually I ask a question at the end so that people who read the blog know that I didn't just want a soap box but that I am really interested in what they might add.  If no one comments on your blog, and you have wanted them to, then maybe people who were reading didn't know what kind of response you hoped for. Questions really help with this. If you are writing the post because you are developing an idea that arose out of a conversation somewhere else, then make sure that you let the other people involved know so that you can continue the conversation there. If there is someone whose insight you would really like then email them or send them a tweet with the link and ask them to leave a comment. And get into the habit of commenting on other people's blogs too. They will appreciate your feedback.

Sometimes people ask about ethics. Are there any particular ethical concerns? If you were writing for a journal or a magazine you would most likely have an editor who would tell you if what you were writing was really off for some reason. But you don't have an editor on a blog so you do have to take a bit more care and consider what you are writing. My own rules are that I don't mention a patient on my blog without asking their explicit consent. In fact, I don't often write about anything relating to my clinical work on this blog. If I am teaching and I realise that I would like to write a post about something which has come up then I would let the students know when I am with them. Sometimes, I don't realise at the time that I want to write about the episode but I always try to make sure that I at least let anyone involved know that I have written the post later. So I don't think there is anything particularly ethically troublesome about blogging, but if you have any doubts then don't be afraid to pass what you are going to write by someone else first.

Should you blog in your own name? I do. That doesn't mean that you have to. But I think that writing in your own name leads to a richer experience because you can make stronger links between your online and offline worlds.

And some practical tips? You can set your blog up on any number of sites. This is on Blogger, which is owned by Google and is really very easy to use and rarely down. Lots of other people choose Tumblr or Wordpress. Have a look around and see what you think will suit you.

Do make sure that you enable sharing buttons on your blog so that people can easily share it with others. And let people subscribe by email too.

I usually add a picture to my posts because it brightens them up and hopefully helps with understanding too.

I allow anonymous comments here but I moderate all comments, mainly to stop spam getting through. It's easier than deleting.

And you'll hear people say every now and again that blogging is dead. But that's nonsense. How could it be when you have just started? Enjoy!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Digital divide, health records access and online security

Oxford Internet Study 2011

The 'digital divide' is very real. The Oxford Internet study is conducted every two years and the above chart is from their most recent survey in 2011. Level of income here relates to household income rather than individual outcome. If you live in a household with an income above £40K it is almost guaranteed that you will have online access. If you live in a poor household with an income of less that £12.5K it is most likely that you won't. There are also stark divisions related to age and educational levels described here.

I've just been having an interesting discussion with Amir Hannan, a GP who is a very strong advocate of patient access to their own health records, about how the digital divide means that those who are most likely to have health problems are least likely to be online... bringing us in the direction of a digital 'inverse care law'.

So if you are a GP and are encouraging patients to access their records online what would you say to those who lack the means to be online? Amir said that patients who are not yet online are directed to a course run by the local library which helps to get people online. But what if you can not afford to have your own access at home, should patients be encouraged to access their medical records from public places such as libraries or internet cafes? What are the risks? Or what about using a computer at the house of friends or family?

Of course, it's not only those who don't have their own computers at home who may use other computerss that they do not own themselves. What issues should you be concerned about if accessing your records from a computer that is also shared with your family or from your work place? Or a hotel lobby when on holiday?

A quick search does not reveal guidance about these issues for people in the UK. Here is the log-in page for the EMIS general practice records access. There is no link to information about online security. Contrast this with information which is available from online banking websites on what to look out for when using their services, for example here is a page on online security from Intelligent Finance.

If there are issues around the online security of accessing health records online, then those who don't have their own internet access at home, are more likely to be at risk. Do you have any examples of links to information in easy to understand forms which will help people to understand and address these issues? Or is it not an issue at all?

EDIT: some great guidance from BCS on accessing records <- they state if possible not to access from public computers, but if you do to clear browsing history.*** note this guidance is draft and NOT FOR CIRCULATION but I found it through Google ;-) ***