Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Networking with health consumers

I have been following the blog of Anne Cunningham, who is a GP and clinical lecturer in Wales, UK. Although we work in different health professions, we face identical issues in education.

Patients online
Anne recently talked in her post "Students learning from the patient's online voice" about how medical students could learn from patients. And of course, the issue is just as relevant to any health student.

Students learn from the narratives of the patients they meet face-to-face in practice. This is central to medical education. It seems that their could be many valuable opportunities for students to learn from the patients online as well.

She cited the example of a student who wanted to know about cholestatis in pregnancy and the only place Anne could find qualitative information was in an open discussion board. Anne went on to ask if people thought there was any problem with students accessing information from sources such as online forums?

Networking with health consumers
I agree that the opportunities for learning from health consumer and patients online is by and large unexplored. When you consider how much health information is shared on the Internet, the potential for students to learn from patients is immense. I really love Anne's idea of utilising resources like forums to educate her students. And what I would like to do is take things a step further and think how we can actively facilitate networking with health consumers that enhances learning for both groups. And I'm still mulling over quite how you go about it.

How do you think we can tap into the wealth of knowledge that health consumers have? How can networked learning benefit both health students and consumers? What are the risks and benefits? Would you want to network with a medical or midwifery student, and how would you be prepared to do it?

Image: 'Woman in the Wheelchair' neovain


Natalie said...

Sarah I don't know if you've seen this website Health Talk online http://www.healthtalkonline.org/
The site is run by a UK charity and includes video and audio of patients sharing personal stories of health and illness including their experience of different drug treatment regimes etc. I haven't yet explored it in a lot of detail but it's site I bookmarked to look at a later date. Might be useful or of interest to others.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for reminding me about this web site, Natalie. I have looked at it in the past and found it to be really interesting.

The other thing-there are heaps and heaps of blogs around that deal with health issues from a personal perspective. An activity/assignment could be for students to engage with a blogger & start networking that way.

Anne Marie said...

I hadn't realised that Dipex had changed its name. I think Dipex is great and I like this new format. It is very good at presenting patient narratives in an uncritical way. But...but.... these are still selected narratives. This may be much more efficient for learning but I think it does seem sanatised compared to the way people communicate with each other on some public forums.
I am still thinking networking and talking with patients online. But I think that maybe we could start by listening.

ruthdemitroff said...

We used to do a case study for maternity nursing but the internet allows one to search through a broader pool of people until you find a good communicator who says it like it is rather than self-censoring. Students search the web for their presentation material. As part of that searching, they could include the best blog writers on the condition they are presenting.

Sarah Stewart said...

@ Ruth and @ Anne Marie

The trouble with using any material from web is that there is still the attitude that it is not 'academic'-material placed by health consumers is potentially weird and wacky, and we should not be exposing our students to it. How do you answer that sort of response?

starpath said...

PatientsLikeMe.com is set up to capture and share patient experiences in an effective way so the information is useful to healthcare professionals and researchers.
It is possible to see the effects of treatment in real time and to apply selected filters. Support services for patients are also in place.
The high standards of sites such as this must go some way to encouraging those sceptical of web-based information to evaluate source, content and producer.

Anne Marie said...

@Ruth. Your point about self-censoring was exactly what I was getting at. It's good for students and professionals to gain insight into how patients talk about health when we are not around.

@Sarah. Any patient that a student speaks to could be weird and wacky... it depends on who is defining the wackiness. So it can happen in real life as well as virtually. We get students to talk to real patients because of the richness and diversity this brings. That to me is the justification.

@starpath I think this patientslikeme.com is a really interesting site. I introduced it to some third year students last year and they felt a little intimidated by it. Even more reason to start integrating health 2.0 into the curriculum!

Deirdre said...

Thanks for the link about healthtalkonline.