For those with an interest in social media and healthcare, if you missed the #MedicineSocial conference this past weekend, you can follow the convenor, psychiatrist Dr Helen Schultz, as she tweets about it this week at @WePublicHealth.

Among the subjects she will cover are cyberstalking and how to deal with trolls. More details of the conference are also in this Storify.

Meanwhile, online communications are also enabling rural health practitioners to stay in touch via virtual conferences, reports Raj Verma, Director of Clinical Program Design and Implementation at the Agency for Clinical Innovation in NSW.

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Raj Verma writes:

Collaborations between people underpin our healthcare system and are critical to the delivery and improvement of healthcare, especially when people live in remote areas of the country.

The second Rural Innovations Changing Healthcare (RICH) Forum was recently hosted by the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI), part of a broader program by the ACI to promote healthcare innovation and collaboration across NSW.

Insights into the Rural eHealth Program were provided by keynote speaker Dr John Lambert, the state’s first Chief Clinical Information Officer.

Dr Lambert, who is working to bridge the divide between IT staff and clinicians, explained that his initial focus is on basic networking infrastructure for clinical applications and the integration of information systems, and described collaboration with the ACI and Local Health Districts as critical to promote clinical engagement and leadership to benefit rural areas.

To support electronic health information systems, ehealth in collaboration with Local Health Districts is investing in upgrading inter hospital network capacity, speed and connectivity. The collaboration of the six rural local health districts has significantly helped this process and will result in an excellent outcome for rural sites.

“What we will have in place, is at least 1GB bandwidth between every major site in our system. This means that as we increase reliance on our clinical and corporate systems, that we deliver that without any interference and restriction caused by our network performance,” Dr Lambert said.

eHealth is also rolling out Skype for Business (previously MS Lync) for videoconferencing and collaboration, reducing the amount of times staff need to travel.  This will integrate with existing telehealth videoconferencing end points. Most camera and microphone equipped computers will be able to participate once this rollout is completed.

Dr Lambert explained that the challenges of connecting people across great distances are not unique to NSW Health and the many opportunities afforded by the Rural eHealth Program and agencies like ACI, are making it easier for people to connect and work together to improve healthcare delivery and other services.

Over 240 healthcare professionals and consumers connected in the virtual forum, showcasing innovative rural models of care and demonstrating new ways to collaborate and improve healthcare across NSW.

The forum was designed to allow clinicians to schedule work and clinical commitments to attend sessions of relevance, without having to be absent the whole day as is the case with conventional meetings.

The virtual conference without travel used a combination of face to face, video-conference and social media to link rural and regional satellite groups via video-conference and web stream technologies.

The forum attracted healthcare staff, consumers and managers from Local Health Districts, non-government organisations, General and Private Practitioners, Aboriginal Medical Services, Medicare Locals, Residential Aged Care Providers, NSW Ambulance, Royal Flying Doctor Service, University Departments of Rural Health, Department of Education and undergraduate students.

Evaluation feedback confirmed that the forum provided a valuable opportunity to learn from others and increase collaboration. The accessibility of the talks, the diversity and quality of projects presented and the flexibility that allowed people to come and go, led to a meaningful and informative day.

Everyone providing feedback said they would value an annual forum. As one commented, “I think it is the way of the future for rural clinicians. It will save a great deal of time and staff can come and go during the day according to work commitments.”

Presentations were broadcast using the NSW Health Bridge to 18 satellite hubs across rural NSW. This was the first time that live webstreaming was offered to NSW Health facilities, and 55 clinicians linked in for sessions from their desktops, at home or at work.

There was also the opportunity to raise questions or share lessons learned on Twitter using the hashtag #RICH2015.

This year’s forum showcased projects that promote collaboration and demonstrate innovative approaches to healthcare delivery across rural health. An ePoster slide show over the lunch break showcased a further eight projects with potential to be taken up elsewhere.

More details on projects featured are available from the Innovation Exchange at www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/ie/rich2015

• Follow @raj_verma1 

 

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