Saturday, February 08, 2014

We are the world (Musings on sharing TM resources)

Updated: 10 Feb. 2014
February's blog is on transfusion medicine resources, including blogs and twitter. [Like all blogs, please check again as revisions invariably occur.]

The blog's title derives from a 1985 song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie for 'USA for Africa.'

The blog's theme was triggered by discovering that CBS had removed the Vein to Vein section of its transfusionmedicine.ca website, a site that Kathy Chambers and I developed for CBS in 2001-2003. CBS assessed that some content had become outdated and some was now well covered by other resources. Both true.

The V2V site went up in 2004, ~10 years ago, a long time in transfusion medicine. It's possible that some elements may be revised based on community needs and re-published on the site, but that's just a maybe.

You can still see snapshots of the V2V site because organizations exist that archive websites. This link is the archived site from Sept. 2012.
[Note: Literature references and other external links are still active but don't work on web archives.] 
But that got me thinking about TM resources and who uses them. As explained in January's blog - 'Mommas don't let your babies grow up to be lab techs' -  in reply to Robina's comment (#2 in Addenda), fewer and fewer medical laboratory technologists read TM journals. The same may be true for physicians and nurses.

About online TM resources, I encourage you to ask and answer these questions for yourselves:
  • What resources exist? Who created them and why?
  • Who uses them and why? 
  • Are they useful in your practice?
Perhaps most importantly, should industrialized nations share resources with those in the developing world? In a way, it's similar to whether we in the West should focus on 'Charity begins at home' and give less or nil in foreign aid to poorer nations. And what's the right balance on that continuum?

What follows is my take and I've selected only a few of many useful online resources. Many more exist and your choices may differ from mine.

Please let me know if I've missed an exceptional resource and specify why.

Criteria I use to assess online TM resources:
  • Is content created by credible health professionals, preferably acknowledged experts?
  • Are references to scientific literature included?
  • Is content current and, if older, still relevant today?
  • Even if country specific, is content generalizable to other locales?
  • Who's behind the site? [Usually in About Us
  • Who funds the site? Do they have an agenda? If yes, what is it?
  • Does the site follow the entire Swiss HON 'Code of Conduct'?
 A few useful TM resources, in no particular order:

WEBSITES 

CANADA
Canada has many websites that share incredible resources that took much time, expertise, and funding to create. In each case, developers could have hogged the resources, kept them secret on an organization's intranet.

But, like Australia, the UK, and others, they bravely and generously decided to make them public via the Internet so all could see, share, offer feedback on, perhaps even criticize.

For those who know these sites, bear with me. I'll try to feature a few goodies that may be new to you.

1. BC PBCO 

BC's Provincial Blood Coordinating Office was the first PBCO created in Canada (1997). Among other things, that's reflected in them having the vision to snap up the generic domain name, pbco.ca. [Couldn't resist the joke.]
Sorry!
Sorry, PBCO pals!
Seventeen years later, BC PBCO remains a leader in blood utilization management, information management, and quality management, as well as in sharing educational and other resources via its site and TraQ's (see below). For example:
2. TraQ
Disclosure: I'm TraQ's content coordinator and webmaster.

TraQ has several unique strengths, including:
3. ORBCoN

Among its many exceptional resources, ORBCoN hosts
AUSTRALIA
Australia has long been a leader in developing and sharing blood safety educational resources. Some examples:
UK
The UK too has always generously shared its TM resources and they've led in many key areas. For example:
USA
The best transfusion resources in the USA are the AABB's. I've been a member since 1975 (Yikes!). Please consider that when I criticize the organization. It must be doing something right.

Many of AABB's best resources are restricted to members. But some are available to all, e.g.,

SOCIAL MEDIA
Many of today's 'mature' health professionals diss social media as being sound and fury, signifying nothing, as Shakespeare had Macbeth say about life:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. 
Still, I recommend blogs and Twitter, if they meet criteria as above, as being worthwhile resources for TM professionals.

Social media are democratic, meaning anyone can spout off (I'm a prime example). But health professional bloggers and tweeps shouldn't, and do not, get an audience without earning the respect of peers for the content of the offerings.

Unless they're celebs like Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, who each have over 46 million followers on Twitter. Celebs can be total ______ (fill in the blank with an appropriate word) and still have millions of followers eagerly gobbling up their drivel.

A significant characteristic of social media is that, unlike the websites mentioned above, individual blogs and twitter accounts can be created by anyone for free. The only cost is the time and effort of the people (bloggers and tweeps) who participate and contribute.

BLOGS
1. Musings on transfusion medicine (You are here)
Granted, it's shameless self-promotion to include my own blog. This blog began in 2004 and will have its 10th year anniversary in October. This entry is the 119th individual blog. [As is obvious, I'm long-winded with many rants inside just waiting to be released.]

Many blogs exist (although, not many on TM). Blogs should be taken with a huge grain of salt because they represent one person's biased perspective. Blogs can be thought of as short compositions on a single subject written from the author's personal perspective.

In essence blogs are like newspaper editorials, which represent an individual or group's opinion, e.g., that of the owner, publisher, editor, or editorial board.

Musings on TM represents my opinions alone. A natural tendency is to go against prevailing orthodoxy. To me so much of what people believe, including transfusion professionals, results from speaking to the same people, perhaps a few dozen, day in and day out.

What inevitably results is 'group think'. Spending time in an echo chamber, where you constantly hear your views parrotted back to you, leads to believing your views are conventional wisdom, i.e., Doesn't everyone think that?

In revolt, I'm an iconoclast and this blog provides the medium to oppose what most of us accept as 'truth'.

Still, I hope the blog's ideas are more than a 'nutball sounding off' and represent
  • Constructive criticism
  • Fresh perspective
  • Sound reasoning (Well, mostly...)
If not, the Comments section of the blog (~ Letters to the Editor in newspapers) allows readers to counterbalance my often biased views.

2. A few other transfusion blogs exist but they don't turn my crank using the criteria above. If you know of a good one, please let me know.

TWITTER
Created in 2006, Twitter is a late comer to social media and initially was much ridiculed for its limit of 140 characters and some users tweeting trivialities, e.g., what they ate for breakfast, etc.

But gradually people realized the power of Twitter and saw how it could changed media, politics, business, and more.

I love Twitter for its ability to share news and resources. If you're curious about the world and an information junkie, beware! It's addictive.

1. Cyber Bloodbanker @transfusionnews

Again, forgive the self-promotion. I've 7 Twitter accounts, 4 of them serious (well, relatively so), especially the one above, and 3 spoof accounts strictly for fun. Two are transfusion-related with few followers (only tweet when CBS actions warrant a humorous response):
For transfusion news judged useful or interesting to others, I'll immediately put a link to it on @transfusionnews.

For those new to Twitter, you can register and never tweet, just follow others. Or, if that's too much, a simple approach is to bookmark the account's page and visit it when the mood strikes.

2. Other Twitter accounts
Many of the major TM players tweet and are worth following. Some examples:
LEARNING POINTS
  1. Did you notice that most recommended websites were from countries with publicly funded health care and blood systems? Sharing is good.
  2. All resources on TM websites in Australia, Canada, and UK are available to anyone with Internet access. In a way, it's a version of foreign aid.
  3. Social media is in its infancy but will become ever more powerful as it transmogrifies who controls the message.
FOR FUN

No one says World Wide Web anymore but the web allows us in the West to share resources with those less fortunate around the globe.

Which led me to this month's music choice:
Also see
As always, comments are most welcome.


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