STAT6001 Summarising Public Health Informatics Assessment 1 Answer
Assessment 1: Report – Summarising Public Health Informatics
Social media platforms like Twitter can be utilised for informed public health informatics field and serves a key purpose in society regarding general awareness about public health issues. This assessment consists of selecting and following a Twitter account related to public health informatics and critique on how it has helped in the public health informatics field. The selected Twitter account for this assessment is the Telemedicine Journal handle (@telemedicine_Jn), which posts links to latest researches and publications of public health (Twitter, 2019). The critique on this Twitter account has taken the last 5 weeks of the trimester into consideration and summarises the details of the posts. The concussion, description and supporting views from other authors on the chosen topic would allow us to understand better how Twitter and other similar social networking platforms serve the purpose for raising awareness on the field of public health informatics.
The idea of using social media for informed public health informatics was first pioneered back in 2008 when some Google researchers used specific keywords to track the exact location of a seasonal outbreak of flu. Later in 2010, Google worked with Centres for Disease Control (CDC) for developing a tool that would allow them to predict flu outbreaks in the future. Apart from tracking disease outbreaks, social media is also used as a tool for enhancing patient engagement with medical professionals communicating through social websites like Twitter. The medical experience of the patient is enhanced to a great extent, with the use of social platforms with more open communication with medical professionals (Hootsuite, 2019). Even medical professionals use social media to answer the most common questions of the patients and use it as an educational tool. Social media is also used by professionals to react and respond to any health-related issues or news. Moreover, prestigious clinics and healthcare facilities leverage social media as a reliable source of information for the general public and thus discourage them from seeking information from other unreliable online sources which might be filled with false information. Even online discussion groups are hosted by medical professionals to discuss exercise, health and nutrition through the social platforms. The Twitter account chosen for this assessment is similar to such healthcare platforms that share posts related to recent health issues, new researches and findings or outbreaks of any disease. It also serves the purpose of educating the account followers to know detailed information about certain diseases and ways to prevent them (Ventola, 2014).
However, directly contacting with the patients is not possible at the moment, and hence, healthcare itself is going towards a social approach with multiple host sites that are designed for patient engagement and other medical students. Social media allows medical professionals to connect and share information that helps them discuss the best practices and also benefit from the knowledge shared by other medical professionals (Healthinformatics, 2019). However, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are itself not specialised for healthcare information, and might contains tons of fake news and information. In order to bypass such complications, the information posted on the social platforms is posted along with the link of the authentic website that has published the information. Interested people can learn the gist of the topic from Twitter or Facebook posts and can visit the linked website for further details on the subject. Some of the most well-known websites used by medical professionals and students for sharing information are Doctorshangout, BioMedExperts and referral MD.
The Telemedicine Journal Twitter handle is one such social media account that educates the general public and patients on various health issues and recent researches. Posts from Jun 7 to July 15 has been taken into consideration for critical evaluation and analysis of this Twitter handle. On June 7, Telemedicine Journal posted about an open access article on mHealth for burn injury consultation in a low-resource setting. It also provided the link to the original medical website for further details about the topic (Twitter, 2019). It consisted of an acceptability study about smartphones that can be used in low- and middle-income countries to diagnose and manage burn patients. From this post, a lot was learned about the progress of m-Health and attitude of healthcare providers towards the progress of m-Health. On June 12, Telemedicine Journal posted an update asking its followers to submit the manuscript of their research paper. This shows, Telemedicine Journal also uses their Twitter handle to promote new researchers who need a platform to publish their own research papers regarding public health and diseases (Twitter, 2019).
On June 14, Telemedicine Journal tweeted about a systematic review of videoconferencing psychotherapy and depression. The attached link provided insight on depression being the leading cause of disability in the world and how telemental-health programs conducted through videoconferencing with medical professionals can provide a cost-effective way to counsel depression. This a type of information is helpful to so many social media users who are suffering from depression and can reach out to such methods to control their anxiety and depression. The next tweet by Telemedicine Journal was on June 17 about the intervention through telephone on Glycaemic Control in Type 2 diabetes treated with Glargine Insulin. This tweet redirected to the original link, which discusses in details how smartphones can be an effective way of intervention for treating type 2 diabetes by contacting trained nurses. This program would help patients reach their optimal insulin glargine dose in 6 months (Twitter, 2019). This self-management program, also known as the eStar program, provides patient support through smartphone and is essential for public health support. The next tweet on Jun 19 explained a direct-to-customer virtual urgent care for prescribing antibiotics for Sinusitis. This provided detailed knowledge about how virtual urgent care can be provided to a patient suffering from Sinusitis by means of antibiotic prescribing patterns. The final post on July 15 was about the promotion of the July issue of Telemedicine and e-Health journal that contained innovations and original research of public health. Readers of the tweet can follow the link to download the e-book and learn about the research details.
Consisting of 893 tweets and 6335 followers as of July 18, 2019, Telemedicine Journal twitter handle is an ideal example of how social media can be utilised for informed public health informatics (Twitter, 2019). Within a period of 5 weeks, the twitter handle provided with 5 different topics of public health issues and how they can be prevented or treated through smartphones or video-conferencing. With more and more such social media pages, the issues of public health informatics can be better addressed and will be able to reach out to a large number of people through social media platforms.
The evidence for social media platform usage on public health informatics and tweets from Telemedicine Journal can be presented through screenshots of their twitter handle. The following evidences are taken from their twitter handle.
Image 1: Telemedicine Journal Tweeter Handle
(Source: Twitter, 2019)
Image 2: Telemedicine Journal Tweeter Post on June 7 and June 12
(Source: Twitter, 2019)
Image 3: Telemedicine Journal Tweet on June 14
(Source: Twitter, 2019)
Image 4: Telemedicine Journal Tweet on June 17
(Source: Twitter, 2019)
Examples for Supporting Views
According to entrepreneur and founder of Sickweather, Graham Dodge, real-time contextualised data can be mined from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and analysis of these data can help track and predict diseases more accurately (Hootsuite, 2019). Even social media consultant for Spectrum Health, Michael Yoder stated that social media is the key to provide information related to health issues like flu, virus, Ebola reaches out to the public (Hootsuite.com, 2019). According to Michael, there are tons of benefits of social media in healthcare as it raises awareness about public health issues and also counters misinformation about diseases. Like for example, Dr Zubin Damania known in the social platform as ZDoggMD, uses fun videos to counter the false and irresponsible health claims (Hootsuite, 2019).
Another example is the use of Twitter by Dr David Juurlink, who shares information about the ongoing opioid crisis and is dedicated to the cause of taking down non-science health claims. The impact of the ALS ice-bucket challenge is also a profound example of how social media can be used for public health issues as it can have a far deep reach if used properly to raise awareness about certain health issues (Healthinformatics, 2019). As more and more people nowadays get information from social media platforms than newspapers, social platforms would be the next big information sharing platform for healthcare (Grajales III et al. 2014). Professors Michael Paul and Mark Dredze published a book named Social Monitoring for Public Health to outline the advantages of social media, including real-time availability of data, reduced cost and ease of access. Citizen engagement about STDs and Patient Support for health challenges are also some of the major benefits that social media networking sites like Twitter provide for its users (Smailhodzic et al., 2016). However, users must keep in mind to follow reliable and authentic accounts for gaining information or else misinformation can lead to serious health consequences. Similar to other challenges like this would be further discussed in the following section of the assessment.
Although the use of social media for the benefit of healthcare is ideal, there some challenges and barriers as well, which should be kept in mind when pursuing this strategy. The barriers to the uptake of telemedicine in Australia has been discussed in details in this section of the assessment using learning resources and literature on the topic. These barriers are classified into ICT issues, and management issues based on the cause of the barrier and the current methods of telemedicine has been evaluated to identify the loopholes in the system. The key barriers of telemedicine have been identified, and the methods for addressing them has also been discussed below. Necessary suggestions and practical recommendations have been provided for using social media for healthcare benefits appropriately.
Barriers to the Uptake of Telemedicine in Australia
In Australia, 40% of healthcare professionals view better information sharing as the best way to improve the overall population health. However, there are some major barriers and challenges that need to be overcome to provide better healthcare across Australia. The collaboration of public and private sector, high-quality infrastructure and funding for the models that provide healthcare are essential for up taking telemedicine in Australia (Jang-Jaccard et al., 2014). According to public sector officials, technology entrepreneurs and healthcare workers, if these criterions are fulfilled, it can act as the precursor for successful implementation and adaptation of telemedicine and telehealth-enabled models in Australia. Due to the lack of general physician compared to the population of Australia, it is often not possible to cater to all the needs of every patient, and this has resulted in lack of health monitoring in the country (Zdnet, 2019). However, this can be significantly reduced with the use of video conferencing that allows medical professionals to attend their patients without losing any time for transportation. In case of minor health issues, doctors and physicians do not need to overserve and can take care of their patients through a virtual medium. However, as only a few people are aware of the use of telemedicine for health issues, it is becoming tough for doctors to cater to so many patients. Once people are made aware of the benefits of adopting telemedicine and improved infrastructure, funding and people are involved with the process, using social media for healthcare would be the next big thing in the Australian healthcare system.
The major ICT issues regarding telemedicine are the lack of IT infrastructure that would allow direct interaction between the patient and doctors. Moreover, information on how to use virtual methods and telemedicine is still unknown to most Australian citizens, and 14% find it an effective method for healthcare (Househ, Borycki & Kushniruk, 2014). Implementing better IT infrastructure and making the general public aware of telemedicine and methods to use it would allow Australians to reap its benefits in the future.
Apart from ICT issues like lack of infrastructure and awareness, there are some management issues as well. The public and private sector need to collaborate for implementing and adopting telemedicine properly in Australian household and society. Public sectors are good at providing medical care to patients but lack the people strength and innovation to offer great services. This can be fulfilled by the private sector, which is good at recruiting people for the job and implement innovative measures to address the issue. If the Australian government is able to manage the collaborating of these two sectors, telemedicine can be easily implemented in the nation (Healthcareit, 2019). Another, equally important management issue is the absence of funding by the government for promoting and improving telemedicine system. As most physicians, doctors and healthcare workers believe the use of social media as beneficial for a better public health scenario, the government should allow more budge to the cause and provide health clinics with resources so that they can implement telemedicine and take care of the patients through video conferencing and other similar online methods.
Evaluation of Current Methods
Some of the current methods of telemedicine used in Australia are patient-doctor direct interaction for discussion health issues and providing health solution to minor health problems that do not require physical intervention. Another method is the availability of information on social media platforms regarding the most asked questions of patients which many established clinics offer for free. Disabilities like depression and other mental issues are best treated through online interaction as most patients shy away from confronting health professional directly. These current methods need to be further improved through an overall change in infrastructure to provide better healthcare facility to the Australian citizens.
The key barriers identified through the literature and learning sources are outdated reimbursement, inadequate technology and infrastructure, payment methods and funding, restrictive policies and inclination towards the traditional approach of healthcare (Ncbi, 2019). These 5 were identified as the key barriers that are preventing the Australian population from better healthcare monitoring.
Addressing the Barriers
The healthcare workers and medical professionals agree that usage of social media and telemedicine methods are the best way to address these barriers by raising awareness and essential information about them. However, the government of Australia has not been able to address these barriers properly as most people lack knowledge about such methods and still prefer the traditional approach for healthcare service (Zdnet, 2019). Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are being used presently due to the high activity of users in them. Various clinics are posting their researches and general health awareness in their dedicated social pages to spread information about this to the general public.
Suggestions and Recommendations
Based on the identified barriers, the following recommendations and suggestions might be helpful for adopting and implementing telemedicine in Australia.
- Raising awareness of people through social media platforms.
- Upgrading technological infrastructure to provide virtual methods that allow patient-doctor interaction.
- Funding policies that would provide the financial resources to change the overall structure of the healthcare system in Australia (Cadilhac et al., 2014).
- Using social media pages to counter misinformation about health issues and make the people interested in this new approach of medical services.