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Old versus New – NHS, social media and swine flu

It’s been well reported that the hospital I work at has been preparing for things just in case there should be an outbreak of swine flu. And between delivering leaflets to wards to let staff know just how this would pan out and researching online communications, I’ve seem how both things work – and don’t.

There’s always been the issue of whether staff on the ground get access to the computers to read the things we’ve put out online, so we do both to make sure – put it online and provide it in paper form. Something that even with all the advances in social technology will not alter any time soon. Frontline staff don’t sit in front of a computer all day like those of us office based and may not always be able to read the things online as soon as we put it on. I know when I worked on the frontline in another job I would scan through emails once a day if I was lucky.  Other people did it once a week and a select few monthly.  Social media is great for getting things out, but not if the people can’t get to it regularly.

Then, on the other hand, until the information about the Redditch woman infected with swine flu was confirmed we had numerous calls from journalists trying to find out if the Prime Minister’s announcement of someone infected in Birmingham was at our hospital (She wasn’t. Redditch isn’t even in Birmingham.  Most sites have now updated to show this). We fielded calls from all sorts of news outlets all asking the same question and we had the same answer for them. This information could’ve been released once on social media sites like a Trust blog (and/or Twitter) and prevented having to repeat the same thing. We could always alter the information as and when it changed – like we’ve been able to do with linking to the up to date Health Protect Agency’s algorithm when the World Health Organisation upped the pandemic level.

I think it’s pretty easy to see that both methods have their strengths and weaknesses. Online media allows rapid, regularly updated information to be disseminated to a large number of people, but only if they have access to it and you don’t always know who has read it (I know there are trackers, but still). Paper-based and/or one face-to-face conversation means you know people get the information but it’s stagnant and updating it can be time consuming. This is not exactly a groundbreaking analysis, – I know that. But seeing this in the space of two days has been really quite fascinating.

*This was originally posted on my old blog BeanHeartBatman*

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