Monday, October 6, 2014

Will social media help Australian midwives become elected onto the Australian College of Midwives' Board?


In the world of Australian midwifery, we are seeing a first - the popular election of Directors and President to the Australian College of Midwives (ACM). Midwives are throwing themselves into the elections with some surprising results.

The ACM is the peak body for midwives in Australia, thus the most influential professional midwifery organization in the country.  Recent changes to the constitution has allowed for the election of Board members by the ACM membership, as opposed to them being nominated and appointed. The first elections are due to close at the end of October 2014.

What I have found interesting is how election candidates have turned to social media as part of their campaigning. I think all of them have their own Facebook page. It is clear that there are candidates who feel comfortable in the social media space and have been using social media for some time. Whilst others have been dragged into Facebook by supporters. In part, I think this has been influenced by Lesley Page, who was one of the first midwives to use social media to become elected to the presidency of the Royal College of Midwives. She has just been visiting Australian midwives so I have no doubt there have been a few people picking her brains.

What I am monitoring is how candidates are using social media. Is it a way of pushing out of information.... a sort of "This is me and this is what I do and think". Or will they use it to generate debate and conversation with midwives? What Lesley did so well with her campaign was to use social media, especially Facebook, to talk to people so they felt they knew her better and could approach her about issues.

So I'll be interested to hear from candidates after the elections about how they believed social media contributed to their campaign. I'll be especially interested to hear from those candidates who do not usually use social media, to find out what "return on investment" their Facebook page had for them.

Have you ever used social media to campaign in an election? What are your tips about "dos" and "don'ts"?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Glad to say I am a "Human"...




 I have been living in Canberra for nearly two years and couldn't be happier.

Canberra has a charm that isn't necessarily visible on the surface which is why so many people say it is boring and soul-less. But to those of us who live here, it has hidden treasures that we're very proud of.

We have amazing little cafes and restaurants, a stunning orchestra, two theaters, out-door cinema in the summer, beautiful walks and outdoors festivals. We're ten minutes drive from local wineries that are growing in reputation and three hours drive from ski fields in the winter. The Farmers' market on Saturday morning is a great way to start the weekend. And if you like the really big shows, it takes only three hours to drive to Sydney.

As one of Canberra's biggest fans, I am delighted to have been accepted to be one of the 101 Local Humans, which is campaign organised by Visit Canberra. The idea is that when ever I am out and about over the next few months, I contribute to a living tourist brochure, giving my views on what's on in Canberra. Here is where you can see my contribution to the Human Brochure
The Human Brochure campaign will climax at the beginning of November when we have a weekend with out-of-state guests and spend the time being tourists. I am in the Arts and Culture group and am really looking forward to exploring spaces in Canberra like the Australian War Memorial and National Museum. You can follow what I am up to, as well as the other 100 "Humans" with the #humanbrochure tag. 

I had a couple of reasons for joining this initiative. Firstly, I am such a fan of Canberra and get quite offended when I hear people talk us down (even though I have only lived here five minutes and am not even an Australian citizen!). I'm really keen to share the pleasure I feel about living here. Secondly, I want to learn more about Canberra and take the time to explore the areas that I haven't got around to visiting yet.

Another reason is to explore the use of social media in a different context to what I am used to ie using social media for marketing and advertising, as opposed to education and dissemination of professional information. 
I have already had to think about how I integrate my use of social media with my smart phone, and have had to update my phone so I can start to use Instagram (that was a real shame...NOT!).

I have also been challenged about my attitude to photography. Years ago I had a SLR and was very interested in photography. But as the kids came along, and I moved to a smartphone, I became lazy and now I take more of a "point-and-shoot" approach to photography.  However, there are some amazing photographers amongst the "Humans" and I have been inspired to start thinking again about the quality of the photos I take. I don't know if I can be bothered to move back to a SLR, but I am keen to explore what I can do with the camera and editing apps on my new cell phone.

Do you have any hints, tips or advice about how to take cool photos with a smart phone?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Still trying to get my head around social media and testamonials for midwives in Australia



A couple of months ago, the regulatory body for midwives (and health professionals) in Australia, AHPRA, brought out guidance about the use of social media and testimonials which caused a kerfuffle to say the least. Now that guidance has been clarified and the dust has settled, I have gone back to finalizing the Australian College of Midwives' guidelines for social media so that we can get on and publish them. But having re-read the latest AHPRA advertising and social media guidelines I find myself still in a bit of a dither about exactly what the ACM should be advising its members.

I understand that a testimonial is a "statement that says something positive about, or recommends a midwife’s qualification, care/service/business, character or conduct". This may be solicited or unsolicited. What I cannot get my head around is what AHPRA sees as the difference between a testimonial and a favorable comment posted on a midwife's social media site. I am also struggling to see how birth stories that midwives publish fit into the picture - are they commentary, or could they be perceived as testimonials?

Here is the draft of what I have written so far.


1      Advertising and testimonials

The National Law states that midwives must not use testimonials to advertise their services. A testimonial is a statement that says something positive about, or recommends a midwife’s qualification, care/service/business, character or conduct.  Midwives are not allowed to use testimonials to advertise their services because the testimonial may unduly influence the public,

mis-represent the service, business or midwife, or prevent consumers from making informed choices about their care. In the ‘Guidelines for Advertising Regulated Health Services’ (2014), AHPRA states that midwives “cannot use or quote testimonials on a site or in social media that is advertising a regulated health service, including patients posting comments about a practitioner on the practitioner’s business website.”
Best practice points:

  • If social media is used to advertise midwifery practice/business, the midwife should always publish full name and contact details, as well as professional qualifications.
  • Do not publish solicited or unsolicited endorsements, testimonials or materials that could be perceived as recommendations in any online space.
  • If a woman would like to provide a favourable comment or review of a midwifery service, request that she do this in her own online space. 
  • Do not publish a woman’s birth story if it describes or comments on quality of the midwifery care provided.

  • For further direction visit ‘Health of the Net (HON) Code of Conduct’ (http://www.hon.ch/home1.html); an internationally recognised standard for health professionals on how to provide online health information to women and families.
Best practice example

A new mother wrote a long comment on her midwife’s blog thanking her for the excellent care she received from the midwife. The midwife thanked the mother very much for her lovely compliment, but explained that she had to remove the comment because it could be perceived as an testimonial. Before the midwife deleted the comment, she took a screen shot and saved it as evidence of her practice for the next time she had her Midwifery Practice Review. 


 
What do you think? Too conservative, or about right? What would you change and why?

Image: 'Free Social Media Networking Icons - 154 Orange Grunge Stickers'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/44071822@N08/4440931283

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chance to talk to AHPRA's CEO about the advertising guidelines

The latest news from the AHPRA advertising guidelines saga is that Martin Fletcher, AHPRA CEO, is taking to Twitter to explain the guidelines and answer any questions. 

The Twitter chat is using hashtag #ahpraqanda and is taking place on Friday 28 March at 12pm AEST.

Even if you're not very interested in the topic, it will be worth following to see how a real-time hashtag chat works, and how an organization uses Twitter for engagement and PR.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Totally hooked on Hootsuite

Up until the last six months or so, I was a frequent user of Twitter. I used it to send around information and make real time connections with all sorts of people. But over the months, I have stopped feeling the Twitter love, and become a Facebook recluse.

This has partly been because the tool I was using to manage my Twitter accounts was closed down. And the other main reason was that with three Twitter accounts - my own personal account, the Australian College of Midwives, and the Virtual International Day of the Midwife - I started to feel completely over-whelmed.

For a number of years I have heard about Hootsuite, which is a tool that allows you to manage all your social media accounts in one place. I had played with it about two years ago, but never really got it. But this weekend I decided I would give it another go.


Hootsuite is web-based, which means I can access my account anywhere as long as I have Internet access. It allows me to manage and monitor multiple social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so.  For the time being, I have chosen to use Hootsuite for managing my three Twitter accounts.


I have to say that after only a couple of hours I am totally hooked. I have set up all three accounts so I can see who I am following, who is talking about me and who is talking to me. This will make it so much easier to monitor conversations and to answer messages in a timely manner. This is turn will improve engagement, especially for the two professional accounts I manage.


The other thing I have done is set up several hashtags I follow on Twitter, including #VIDoM14 and #phdchat. It is so much easier to have them all in one space, and will make it especially easier to manage at times of intensive use, such as the weekly chats such as  #hcsmanz - a chat every Sunday evening about health care and social media.

A further feature that I may find very useful is the ability to schedule messages, or tweets. This will make it so much easier to plan what and when I am going to post.

Do you use Hootsuite? How do you use it? What other social media management tools would you recommend?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

AHPRA provides guidance for the guidance on advertising, but still leave health professionals with concerns

Over the last week or so, there are been a lot of discussion, concern and complaints about the advertising guidelines released by the Australian Health Practitioner Agency (AHPRA) -  full story can be read here. So much so that an online campaign has got going, and health professionals' associations have been lobbying to have the guidelines revised.

On Tuesday,  AHPRA released FAQ that has gone some way to clarify the advertising guidelines. AHPRA states:
  • There is a difference between advertising and unsolicited online comments;
  • The advertising guidelines do not apply to unsolicited comments over which practitioners have no control; 
  • Practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to remove) unsolicited testimonials on sites over which they have NO control.
Still unsure about positive comments
However, there is still no clear guidance in the FAQ about unsolicited comments in the health practitioners’ own space. The FAQ initially say “There is a clear difference between advertising – which requires an advertiser’s intent to promote a health service – and unsolicited online comment, which does not involve an advertiser’s intent to promote a health service.” The FAQ then go on to say “Practitioners are not responsible for removing (or trying to have removed) unsolicited testimonials published on a website or in social media over which they do NOT have control.” There is no mention of how practitioners should deal with unsolicited comments in websites or social media which they DO control.

Should we need guidance to read the Guidance?
At the beginning of the FAQ, AHPRA states “We will keep updating these FAQs to answer questions about emerging issues and guide practitioners about their regulatory responsibilities in relation to advertising.” Whilst it's great that AHPRA is willing to respond to practitioners’ questions as they emerge, I feel that the Guidelines should be easy to understand, consistent, and lacking contradictions in the first place. Then there would not be such a need to provide guidance on how to read the Guidance. I am also very concerned about the fluid nature of the FAQ. I feel it makes practitioners vulnerable and begs the question about how much reliance we can put on the changing information in the FAQ.

What is the legal impact of inconsistencies between Guidance and FAQ?
Finally, in view of the confusion and inconsistency between the Guidelines and FAQ I am left asking what would be held up in a court of law – the Guidelines, or the FAQ which contradict the Guidelines?

 Need for robust guidance
The #AHPRAaction campaign are asking for the complete removal of the section of the guidelines that talks about social media and testimonials. I am not sure I agree with the complete removal because I feel there needs to be guidance on the difference between testimonials and unsolicited comments. However, I would call upon AHPRA to incorporate the FAQ into the Guidelines. This will significantly strengthen the Guidelines and decrease risk to practitioners, especially in the face of vexatious reporting that I have already heard is happening in relation to practitioners’ use of social media.

I would also recommend that the Guidelines are reviewed again in one to two year’s time, instead of three years. The social media landscape changes very quickly and a shorter time frame for review is appropriate in this instance, especially as this is a relatively new area for regulatory consideration.

What do you think? Are the FAQ clear? How will the Guidelines impact on your practice?

Two sides to every gardening story

As far as I am concerned, one of the great mysteries of life is how everyone and anyone can grow the most wonderful vegetables in the most unusual pots and challenging locations but I can't!!! 

I know all about vertical gardening....










                                                                                                                   growing vegetables in pots...


making the most of a balcony...

But do you think I can manage anything similar?!  The answer is NO!

I lost track how much I spent this spring on pots, plants and compost, with the view of feeding Africa from the produce I would grow on the balcony of my flat in Canberra. 

This is all I managed....3 tomatoes...and 4 capsicum the size of gob stoppers!


Honestly...I give up!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Confusion for Australian health professionals about AHPRA advertising guidelines and social media

In the last couple of weeks the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (the body that regulates health professionals in Australia) has released its social media policy and advertising guidelines. They are generic documents and apply to all the health professions that AHPRA regulates, including midwives, nurses and doctors. The social media policy is broad and uncontroversial. But the advertising guidelines, in particular the advice regarding social media, has caused a good deal of confusion and consternation amongst health professionals.

What is the difference between a testimonial and unsolicited online comment?
The problem with the guidelines is the lack of clarity around the difference between a testimonial used for advertising the services of a health service or health professional, and an unsolicited online comment that is posted by a consumer in an online space, such as Facebook or review website.

It is illegal for health professionals in Australia to use solicited testimonials to advertise their services because of the potential to interfere with health consumers' ability to make informed choices about their care.

What the guidelines advise is that unsolicited appreciative comments or stories posted by health consumers in online spaces belonging to health professionals, such as Facebook, could be deemed as testimonials, and must be removed. Additionally, if these comments are posted in the consumers' own online spaces, health professionals must do all they 'reasonably' can to get the comments removed.

Does AHPRA understand how social media works?
Since the guidelines were published, there has been a lot of discussion about this apparent lack of understanding of how social media works. Social media gives health consumers a voice that they often do not have in the face-to-face setting. Online comments that are both appreciative and critical increase transparency in health care practice, and provide health professionals feedback that supports reflection. These comments and stories are the everyday way that people network and hold online conversations using social media, and generally are not used for advertising.

Is it right to censor health consumers?
One of the main concerns is that the guidelines appear to be an attempt to gag health consumers. The guidelines say that stories told by health consumers and patients could be construed as testimonials. This has huge implications for health professionals. For example, if a woman tells her birth story on her blog and talks about the excellent midwifery care that I provided, I would have to ask her to remove any reference to my clinical care. At best, it feels rude to do that, and could potentially impact on my relationship with that woman  - at worse, it feels like censorship.

This advice has implications that reach beyond the online environment.  For example, could health professionals be disciplined because of what consumers say about them in birth or death announcements? Would the nurse who was praised for her care of a terminally ill patient in a death announcement be taken to court?

How 'reasonable' is AHPRA being?
A further concern that health professionals have is the advice that they must make "reasonable" efforts to have comments and stories removed from online spaces that are not under their control. There is no discussion about what it deemed to be reasonable. Keeping in mind how far comments are shared, 'liked' and re-tweeted, the guidelines do not make it clear what is considered to be 'reasonable'  and how far health professionals have to go to get online content removed, or how they should track online content.

All for one, and one for all?
Criticism has ensued since the publication of these guidelines, especially from doctors. This led to what appeared to be back-tracking from the Medical Board last Friday, when Dr Joanna Flynn announced in a media statement that "there is a clear difference between advertising - which requires an intent to promote the health services - and unsolicited online comment over which practitioners do not usually have control", and that health professionals are not expected to monitor or control what is written about them in online spaces.

This statement was well received by doctors, but the rest of us continue to be unclear if the statement from the Medical Board applies across all the other national Boards ie was the Medical Board speaking on behalf of AHPRA? 

Another question is, what credibility does this media statement have compared to the guidelines?  In other words, if I am charged with breaching National Law, am I judged against the media statement, or the guidelines?  If this response to one doctor is anything to go by, the Medical Board spoke out of turn, and AHPRA does not intend to change the stance that it has taken in the guidelines.

Where does this leave us?
Until if or when the guidelines are amended, health professionals must use them as their basis for practice, and not base their actions on unsubstantiated media statements.

In the meantime, I would advise all health professionals to write to AHPRA asking that they amend the guidlines to clarify that:
  • testimonials are solicited comments and stories used for the purpose of advertising;
  • unsolicited comments and feedback from consumers in either health professionals' online space, or that of the consumer, are not considered to be testimonials;
  • heath professionals are not expected to monitor online spaces, or ask consumers to remove content from consumers’ own space.
Disclaimer:  This blog post contain my own views and are not necessarily that of the Australian College of Midwives

Image: 'Does flickr need an eyetest (freedom test)?'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/60364452@N00/546901054