Social Media, Medicine, and NonProfits

If online technology was in the fashion world, social media would be considered the new black.  It is the latest little must have article of clothing that you can mix and match with other things in your wardrobe.  However, just because it is can be easily used and applied to a lot of things, doesn’t mean it should be used for every occasion. 

So how do you know if social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. are for you or your organization?  Well what do you plan on using it for?  In other words why would use it, what are your goals?  You don’t want to be using any application (including social applications) just for the sake of using them.  The folks over at TechSoup have an interesting webinar on Understanding the ROI of Social Networking in which they not only discuss the idea of setting specific goals, but also how you can measure your success and the return of investment of the project. 

Hospitals, medical organizations, and academic medical centers are jumping into the social media arena.  I am a part of the social media group at my institution where our hospital is actively using social media and planning social media technology, goals, and events.  We meet every month and people from various departments are at the meeting, everybody from the Executive Board, IT, marketing, education, alumni relations, etc.  We are on Facebook and have a Twitter feed. 

So why would this be important to hospitals?  Well there is the marketing and public relations side of things.  Hospitals love getting their name out there, love driving interest to their facilities.  But there might be other areas that we have not considered, for example, do social hospitals have better HCAHPS scores?  HCAHPS is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systemsthat surveys patients’ persepectives of hospital care and their hospital experience.    In the post on the Social Hospital, John Domansky a hospital CFO, believes a “hospital that has adopted social media tools to better communicate with their patients, employees, medical staff, and community reflects an organization culture of superior communication.”  Because the many of the publicly reported HCAHPS questions focused on communication, it would stand to reason that institution that prides itself on good communication would have good HCAHPS scores.  Domansky says, “These very same characteristics mirror the basic principles of social media, ‘communicate well, listen, and explain.”  He continues to investigate this idea by looking at and comparing the HCAHPS scores of hospitals that use social media and ones that don’t use it. 

I wouldn’t say that getting on Twitter will improve your HCAHPS scores.  I don’t think you can take an organization with poor communication procedures and have them slap up a Twitter feed or Facebook page and expect good scores or good patient experience.  But I think institutions who are already good at communicating are already looking at ways to communicate better and social media is one of those was of improving  communication, thus would have good HCAHPS scores. 

Communication is a great thing, but new methods and new ways to contact people and organizations or communicate feelings and thoughts about people and organizations can be tricky until one learns their appropriate boundaries and creates the appropriate social media persona.  For a regular person it can be tricky.  I have only recently begun to find my social media persona.  years ago when I started this blog I made a conscious decision that it would be primarily professional not personal.  Well lines began to blur when I got on Facebook and started using Twitter.  Personal updates that my friends and family would be interested it, were co-mingling with professional things.  Only recently did I sort my social persona out.  I post personal information on Facebook and mainly professional posts go on Twitter (those feeds are also re-posted on Facebook).  The blog, which will always be my more professional side, will post a link both on Twitter and Facebook (believe it or not I have some family that are interest in my blog posts).  So I guess if you look at it for my social persona, Facebook is the most personal, Twitter is more professional with a smattering of personal, and the blog is the most profession with little personal.  All three areas link upon each other but I think I have set up distinct areas.

For those in certain professions like a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, etc. it can be even more tricky.  A recent article in NEJM, “Practicing Medicine in the Age of Facebook,” recounts one physician’s experience where the blurring of the lines of professional and personal communication. 

Organizations such as hospitals or libraries don’t have to worry as much about their personal/professional image, but they still have to worry about the communication and what they are going to say and how they are going to do it.  The Internet and the social media sites are rife with examples of how not to do something.  Unfortunately many of these examples were made live, and some of the companies suffered for their blunders.  Not doing one’s homework on how a organization should operate with social media is a big blunder, but second to that is not having a clear goal on what the social media technology will help accomplish.  Just slapping up a Twitter feed and Facebook page without know why is bad.  That is why it would be a good idea to not only investigate the hows of doing it, but the whys.  Once you have the whys you can then measure whether it was successful and whether you should continue by looking at its return on investment.

Medical Apps and Phones

The Cornflower had a nice post, Medical Apps for Smartphones, listing several Healthcare and Fitness applications as well as medical applications for the iPhone. 

The two most popular smartphones are the Blackberry (which many different styles and types of phones) and the iPhone.  Blackberrys are currently more accepted within healthcare because they were the originators of smartphone secure transmissions of email and data on networks.  Many hospital IT departments only allow employees to access the hospital email system using Blackberry devices.  The iPhone, however, is a fast up and comer.  Once described by a person within my IT department as a great “personal device,” is now seen in the library on the hips and hands of health professionals almost as much as the Blackberry.  With the release of Citrix Receiver Application for the iPhone, I think it is a just matter of time (and some big enough wig doctor in the hospital who has an iPhone) and we will be seeing iPhone support within hospital IT departments.

In the mean time there a lot of things to start considering for your library and your customers.  First you need to start thinking about re-designing your library web pages to be more mobile friendly.  Please for God’s sake when you do that include a link to the full octane website, there is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a mobile site and the one darn link you need is on the regular full website.  Additionally, you need to start asking your vendors whether they have a nice mobile ready site.  How helpful is it for a patron to be using your nice slick mobile site on their phone only to click on a resource that is not mobile friendly that has flash (a big no no in the smart phone world)? 

Not only do you want to eventually create a mobile friendly website, but you might want to try and familiarize yourself with the two main contenders, the Blackberry and the iPhone.  The Blackberry is a little more difficult to familiarize yourself with just because there are so many different types of Blackberry devices and each have their own feel.  I know some people who love the Storm while others hate it with a passion, likewise with the Curve.  There is really only one iPhone.  I have had a few doctors ask me my opinion on both devices.  I tell them I am an iPhone user, but what they choose depends on a several factors. First their wireless plan, if they aren’t moving to AT&T then they aren’t going to have iPhone.  Second and almost as important, how important is it to receive work email?  If it is very important then until the hospital IT department decides they want to wake up and support the iPhone and hospital email, a Blackberry is the only choice.  If they are still undecided I tell them to go try each of the devices out.  They can go to almost any mobile store and play with several Blackberrys.  They can also go to AT&T and play with both Blackberrys and iPhones. 

You would think the inability to get work emails on the iPhone would make it less popular.  That might be, but I know of two staff physicians who specifically selected an iPhone because they liked the feel, how it functions and the various types of medical apps available.  I also see more and more medical professionals carrying iPhones these days than people carrying Blackberrys.  Perhaps this is because the iPhone has a pretty unique look and is easy to spot. 

Additionally, it would be helpful to familiarize yourself with the various medical apps and medical app vendors for the devices.  Two big companies that produce medical texts and resources for mobile devices are Unbound Medicine and Skyscape.  Both websites have resources and medical texts for the iPhone and Blackberry and both offer institutional access and pricing.   Collective Medicine is a site that sells medical resources for the Blackberry and PDAs, not iPhones.  The iPhone’s App Store has gotten somewhat better at organizing their vast collection of apps.  QxMD is a site that provides free medical calculators and clinical formulas.  They are developed for both the iPhone and the Blackberry.

Why should you create a mobile friendly website and ask library vendors if they have mobile friendly access?  Why is it important to know a little bit about the two main type of smart phones and where to find medical apps? Because more and more people are accessing websites from their phones.  According to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Projectten years from now the mobile device will be the primary tool from most people to connect to the Internet.  That is 10 years from now, why should I care now?  In 2020 there won’t be some giant flick of switch and boom everybody has a smartphone and everybody is accessing the Internet.  The process will be a gradual flood.  The tide of mobile Internet users will continue to rise and not anticipating the rise will leave you treading water.  Already in the library I see more and more doctors, nurses, medical students, etc. whipping out their smart phone to look up things, to add due dates to calendars, to find email addresses.  Outside of the library I see even more people using mobile devices and accessing the Internet.

Friday Fun

I just discovered my new favorite blog.  So in the spirit of the upcoming weekend and in the belief that we all need a little humor in our lives I wanted to share it with you.  The blog focuses on articles retrieved within NCBI.  But unlike the very helpful blog, PubMed Search Strategies by Cindy Schmidt (mentioned on David Rothman’s site), my new favorite blog is a little more humorous. 

NCBI ROFL is a blog that posts the citations (and its abstract) to a real articles found in with PubMed.  However, they aren’t what you would think of as usual articles in the biomedical world.  In fact they post the unusual and often very humorous citations that they or others have found in the PubMed database.   “NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley,” and without their blog I would never have known that these articles were even in the medical literature let alone indexed in PubMed. 

Here are some of the posts, and true to the title of the blog they had me Rolling On Floor Laughing.

I want to thank Amy Blevins who posted a link on her Facebook wall to NCBI ROTFL, without it and the catchy vampire title (which is always sure to grab my SciFi geek eye) I would have never known about this site. 

(Update:) After looking around, I see that I must have been sleeping because both David Rothman and Laika wrote about this fun site back in June. 

Staying Connected and Social Media

Connie Schardt posted a brief synopsis of the May 2009 Section Council Report on MLA Connections.  Several of the sections are using various social networking tools to reach out to their members.  For example, the Cancer Section is working with societies to get their meeting abstracts available through Google Scholar and the Public Health/Health Administration Section stream cast their business meeting in Hawaii so that those who could not attend on site could still “attend.” 

Is your section doing something neat with the web site?  Let Melissa Rethlefsen know about it so she can include it on the Section Council web site.  If your library group (not an MLA Section) such a local organization is doing something interesting, please feel free to comment here so that we can learn from your experiences.

There are many ways that we can stay connected.  The MLA Social Networking Task Force is looking at the various ways that MLA members can be more connected with each other and with the organization.  As one of the members of the task force, I think I can say that we are approaching things from many perspectives to see what might be the best fit for our organization.  We are looking at what other similar organizations, like ALA, are doing as well. 

The possibilities are exciting, interesting, and yes, a little scary too.  As we move through this new method of communicating, I can’t help but remember when email first emerged on the scene.  I was not a librarian at the time (perhaps somebody who was can leave a comment what it was like to be a librarian when email hit), but I remember going to the computer lab sitting at a dumb terminal with a green flashing cursor emailing a few people here and there.  I remember meeting new friends, giving them my email and seeing their quizzical looks. Who knew a few years late that I would have more than one email address, share pictures and jokes with friends and family, and *gasp* buy things online?!  I also would never have guessed it would be simpler to email my husband at work about picking up the kids from daycare than it would be to get him on the phone. 

Some of these communication tools and methods are going to be as standard as email.  It will take some time, but it will happen. I never would have guess gopher would have evolved to the web as it is today.

ROI of Social Media Free Webinar

I apologize for the tardiness of this alert, I usually try and feature free webinars ahead of time but I didn’t find out about this one until early this morning. 

Are you interested in using a few social media tools but your are unsure of how what their impact will be and whether they will be effective for your library?  You might consider registering for this free seminar which will be Thursday August 13th at 10:00am PDT (1:oopm EST).

As librarians are investigating different social media applications it is important that to remember that these things must be evaluated like any other library service or resource.  Just don’t adopt it and continue for technology sake, they are tools that we all must use effectively.  While a wrench might bang a nail into place in a pinch, it certainly isn’t the best tool for the job.  Just because your library has a Twitter feed or Facebook account doesn’t mean those are the best tools for you needs, you need to track how they are being used and their success. 

Meeting Description: (from the website)
You understand how to track the success of your programs, but when it comes to social media you’re at a loss. How do you show that this new technology is something worth the staff time invested? If you are interested in implementing a social media program (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg) but are unsure how to measure the impact or know what success looks like, attend this free TechSoup Talks webinar. Kami Griffiths will interview John Haydon and Chris Garrett to learn more about the impact we can expect to see from these tools, how it can be tracked, and how to adapt to get the most return on your investment.

This webinaris best suited for people new to social media or interested in learning how they can talk about this topic with their Board or Executive team. This will not discuss the specific tools or how they work, but will focus on how to measure their impact. For an overview of social media, watch this TechSoup Talks webinar: Basics for Beginners: Getting Started with Social Media Tools

NLM Associate Fellows

The National Library of Medicine has a nice page announcing the future plansof the 2008-2009 Associate Fellows.  These four librarians have worked on a variety of projects in MEDLINE, environmental health mapping systems, next generation discovery interfaces, citation analysis, outreach, teaching, website development, and optimization of MedlinePlus. 

The Associate Fellowship Program is a one year (with optional second year) post graduate training program designed to provide a broad foundation health sciences and information services.   You can see the list of Fellows for 2009-2010

For more information go to the Associate Fellowship Program’s website which has application information, FAQs, and a previously recorded webinar about program.

Journal Prices and Your Library

Soon after MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications published the list of various journal publishers who have frozen or dropped the price of their 2010 subscriptions, a discussion sprouted on the liblicense email list about whether that list or other publishers’ pricing breaks during this economy would influence whether they kept a journal.  Also discussed were the 2010 prices for Springer and Elsevier titles some of increased by 5% while others increased by 25%.  Basically the discussions centered around the impact of price on librarian’s decision to keep or dump a journal. 

Scott Plutchak summed it up nicely on his blog, it is not a matter of value and whether librarians or publishers believe a publication is worth a certain amount but is a matter of how much money you have.  

Scott’s phone conversation with Elsevier rep on value of their collection:

“If  Lynn and I go down to Jim & Nick’s for dinner, we might spend $50 and have a really good meal.  If we go to Hot n’ Hot, I might spend $200 for an exceptional experience.  I might feel that the $200 actually represents a better value overall, but if all I’ve got to spend on dinner is $20, the comparison is irrelevant.   The point is, I’m just not willing to spend what you’re asking, no matter how valuable you tell me the content is.”

As we all are looking at our budgets and trying to figure out what journals to keep and what to drop while working with a finite amount of money.  There will be casualties.  Some journals are easy to cut, these are the ones that have gotten little to no usage.  I am also starting to see more of the sacred cow type of journals falling more and more into the cut category.  At one point in time librarians used to think they couldn’t cut a certain journal because it was deemed to be too important/valuable.  That feeling is out the window.  I am in the middle of helping another librarian out with her journal cuts this year.  She selected some very big titles for the chopping blog, such as Lancet.  The reason, nobody was using them and they would save over $21,000 if they dropped them.   Let me just state, this library is a heavily used library that also has electronic journals.  If nobody is using the journal there is a reason and it is not because the library is antiquated and unused, because other titles are being used heavily. 

So, the little used journals are getting cut regardless of their perceived value, but what about those journals on the cusp?  For those journals, does it matter whether their publisher is on the price freeze list?  Even if you have the money, for all of your cusp journals does future pricing mean that much that you would cut a cusper whose publisher isn’t on that list?

I think we are in the midst of some very interesting times.  I understand that for profit companies owe it to their share holders and employees to make a profit, but you can’t expect to go into this kind of economical market with a 25% price increase either. In the end it will be us who help determine the future of journal pricing.  Unfortunately we haven’t been very good our price “negotiations” so far.  As Scott said ” The major commercial publishers have done a very good job of betting that when push comes to shove, librarians will always come around, no matter how much they fuss.”

What do the 2010 journal prices mean for your library and how will you negotiate it with the budget?

PubMed Redesign Summary

The PubMed redesign online meeting was very popular.  Max Anderson has a very nice summary on The Cornflower.  It includes links to the video, Power Point slides, and the NLM Technical Bulletin.

Don’t forget the Western half of the country’s session will be on August 11, 2009 11:30 – Noon Pacific time (12:30 – 1:00 Mountain, 10:30 – 11 Alaska).  There will be a reminder to the HLIB-NW listserv on August 10th about the presentation and we look forward to seeing you there! Go to Dragonfly for more information.

PubMed Redesign Meeting

I sat in on the PubMed Redesign online meeting today.  If you weren’t able to sit in on the session or had audio difficulties they recorded and it will be  is available to view.

David went through the slides that he showed at the MLA conference in May.  Details are in the June 2009 issue of the NLM Technical Bulletin.  The changes to PubMed will probably happen sometime mid September and they hope to have a 2 week preview before things really go official. 

David covered a lot of information in his slides and there were a lot of good questions after his presentation.  I tried taking notes as we went along but there was so much information and so many good questions that I will have to view the video again.

But this is what I have learned and remembered so far:

  • Advanced Search page will not be change
  • Citation Matcher will stay but will only be available from Home Page and Advance Search
  • My NCBI might change names to Preferences
  • Library icons will/should display in right hand corner with rest of full text icons
  • Details will only be available from Advanced Search 🙁

From the chat box it seems that there are many librarians who want Details to be available on many/all screens not just Advance Search.  They also want the option to link to the Advance Search directly instead of the PubMed home page.  Since most of the “cool” or helpful things like Details, History, Citation Matcher are only available from the Advanced Search, many people may want to have a nice short cut straight to that area. 

Once the link to the recording for the is up I will post it.  The recording can be found at

I also plan to post the link for the West Coast session as well.  I think watching the two sessions will be helpful because different important questions might be asked at each of those sessions.

Don’t Forget PubMed Re-Design Online Meeting

At the 2008 Annual MLA Meeting, the NLM Online Users’ Meeting  had a preview of the upcoming PubMed redesign. Tomorrow (August 8th  5th), David Gillikin, Chief of NLM’s Bibliographic Services will once again provide a preview for anyone who did not get to attend the user meeting in Honolulu. David will present a brief web-based update on PubMed interface changes and will review the draft design for the new search results page and abstract view presented at MLA.  

To join the meeting:

When:  08/05/2009 2:00 PM (EST), 1:00 pm (CST)

Sign in as a Guest with your first and last name.

After joining the meeting, you can let the system call you for the  audio. If you need to manually dial into the meeting: Dial-In:  1-866-846-3997 Pass-Code: 974772

 This session will be recorded for those unable to attend.

If you have never attended a Connect Pro meeting before:

Test your connection:

For those of you living in the Western half of the country it will be on August 11, 2009 11:30 – Noon Pacific time (12:30 – 1:00 Mountain, 10:30 – 11 Alaska).  There will be a reminder to the HLIB-NW listserv on August 10th about the presentation and we look forward to seeing you there! Go to Dragonfly for more information.

The PubMed changes and redesign drew quite few reactions from the MEDLIB-l community (especially the Citation Matcher issue) so it important for everyone (even you die hard Ovid users) to attend.  Changes may impact you or users in ways you never thought about.  I encourage you to pass this along to your colleagues who might not be subscribed to the listservs or who aren’t big blog readers (feel free to cut and paste this post in an email).