Category: Interpersonal Communication

Publication Planning: You have the data, now what?

Research, in any field, tends to be time-consuming and expensive. This is especially true of large-scale medical research trials. Therefore physicians and pharmaceutical companies, just like researchers in other fields, want to make optimal use of their research activities by producing as many publications from the resulting data as possible.

There are limits to how far these boundaries can be pushed, however. For example, duplicate publications are generally not permissible. This “double-dipping” includes publishing or presenting an identical work in multiple journals or at multiple conferences, but it also bars researchers from reworking a published piece in a way that does not contribute any new knowledge or insights to the results that were originally published.

One study usually measures a large number of variables and can therefore still be broken down into countless publications without violating sanctions against duplicate publications. For a clinical trial of a particular drug, for example, publications could focus on different outcome measures, such as the mechanism of action, safety, efficacy, economic considerations, administration, adherence, etc. Different publications could also examine these variable in various subgroups, such as pregnant women, the elderly, patients with certain co-morbidities, etc.   

In order to balance the desire for publication volume with the need to be ethically responsible by only publishing works that have scientific value, it is essential that large organizations and companies engage in publication planning activities. By convening a group of stakeholders at a publication planning meeting, an organization or company can lay out all of their available study data and determine what can and should be published from it.

In addition, gap analyses can be conducted to determine the topics or types of information that are missing in the current body of literature which can then serve as basis for future research studies intended to produce that information.

In this way, the cycle of medical research and publishing is continually pushed forward to produce new and valuable knowledge, both for the research community and for healthcare providers.

Authorship of Medical Publications

Last week I briefly introduced the concept of professional medical writers. These individuals are hired to write or create medical publications (such as abstracts, journal articles, and conference posters or presentations) on behalf of, or in collaboration with the actual researchers. Medical writers are often used because researchers do not have the time, interest, or the writing expertise to create high quality, publishable work in a timely manner. However, the listed authors still need to be involved in the writing process, and have specific obligations to fulfil in order to qualify as an author.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria: http://www.icmje.org/icmje-recommendations.pdf

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Authorship is one of the major ways in which researchers get credit for the work that they do, which in turn often leads to professional and financial benefits. However, being designated as an author also carries a level of responsibility, as it serves as a public acknowledgement that an individual is willing and able to vouch for a publication and field any questions or critiques that may arise after publication of the work. Therefore, it is important that ethical authorship practices continue to be upheld, and that medical writers are used appropriately.

STI or STD: What Is The Difference?

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If your work involves talking to people about sexual health, you must be talking to them about STDs. Or STIs. Or both. Right?

As the great STD-STI terminology challenge continues, just about everyone has had to choose one term or the other. Well, everyone except for the people who use both interchangeably to mean the same thing. Or those folks who use each in distinct ways to mean different things.

Many well-informed experts make absolutely no distinction between STI and STD. Others feel the distinctions are real and important.

For those who make a distinction, most would say STD describes a condition with visible signs and describable symptoms—a drip, an itch, a bump, fatigue. STI encompasses the broader spectrum of conditions both with and without symptoms.

There was some idea that using STI would make it clear to everyone that sexually transmitted conditions often have no symptoms. It might also lessen the stigma people frequently feel about having these conditions, making them more amenable to testing and treatment.

In actual practice, I’m not at all sure that’s happened. We now have reports that many young people believe STD refers to illnesses that can’t be cured, and STI refers to illnesses that can be.

There are sound reasons for choosing either term, or both. Which is working for you right now? Why is it best for your purposes? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR. You can view this article in its entirety at http://www.etr.org/blog/my-take-std-sti/

RESEARCH SPOTLIGHT: MIKE NEWTON-WARD

Mike Newton-Ward, MSW, MPH, of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), spoke with the Upstream writing team recently to share his lifelong experiences working with social marketing and how this form of communication is effective in public health.

Newton-Ward, an adjunct professor, received both a Masters in Social Work and a Masters in Public Health from UNC, and spent many years working with the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services helping to create and implement various social marketing campaigns aimed at populations across the state. He retired in 2015 and is now an independent consultant with RTI International.

He spoke to the class to highlight the importance of social marketing campaigns in public health and discussed what steps are needed to ensure optimal effectiveness with selected target audiences.

One of the most valuable aspects of social marketing is that it takes feedback generated from the target audience (the group the campaign is intended for) and uses that data to help determine the layout of the campaign itself. Using this approach is key for garnering participant interest and ensuring improved outcomes.

Newton-Ward also discussed other aspects of social marketing, such as its interdisciplinary approach, and how the input of several fields is effective at campaign development, as well social marketing’s unique ability to influence behaviors in all directions. Since public health is primarily geared toward prevention at the population level, social marketing can be used to influence behaviors upstream through social or policy change. Likewise, it can also be used to produce changes downstream (hence, the name of our blog!), by treating or educating populations to change negative behaviors. Finally, social marketing can work sidestream, by allowing partner organizations to collaborate for promoting the best environment possible to ensure a continuum of positive outcomes.

Newton-Ward concluded his talk by answering questions from the audience and discussing the “simplified elicitation methodology,” a strategy used in many public health campaigns, which seeks to identify determinants of behavior by asking three pairs of questions, including:

  • “What makes a behavior harder or easier to do?”
  • “What are the good things and bad things that happen when one does the behavior?”
  • “Who would approve or disapprove of the behavior?”

 The answers generated from these questions are strong indicators for discovering and learning about target audience reactions, and are key drivers for developing successful campaigns.

How do you tell someone when you have an STI?

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1 in 2 people will contract an STI by the time they reach 25 and 20 million people in the United States contract an STI each year (and those are only the ones that get reported). So what happens when YOU get one?

Step 1: Take care of your own health

Go see your medical provider and get the care that you need. Many STIs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea) are easy to test for and are curable especially if you catch them early. So don’t be afraid of making an appointment to get help.

Step 2: Share the news

All STIs are more dangerous if you don’t know about them, so it is very important to tell anyone who may have been exposed. You can tell them directly in person or over the phone, or via email or text. If you are having a hard time telling your sexual partners directly, you can use these resources.

  • So They Can Know: This website helps alert sexual partners about potential STI exposure and provides additional resources. You can send an email anonymously send an email or you can also use tools on the website to support you when you tell someone in person.
  • inSPOT: This website lets you send e-cards about STI exposure either with a short personal message or anonymously. You can even email up to six people anonymously to let them know that they should get tested.
  • Don’t Spread It: This website lets you anonymously email or text a sexual partner with information about the STI they may have been exposed to. You will need to create an account but don’t need to include any personal information or contact information.

Remember, that STIs can happen to anybody. Learn more at the STD Project. The website and all those listed above have all sorts of useful resources like where to get tested and what will happen during testing and have answers to any questions that you could possibly have about STIs.

What can healthcare learn from Uber?

Reports and news stories about the wastefulness of the U.S. healthcare system abound, but the healthcare industry may be able to combat some of that waste by embracing the growing trend of collaborative consumption or a shared economy. This new economic model is rapidly gaining traction in other industries, especially the travel and hospitality industries, where companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb are changing the way that people think about consumption by tapping into unused resources and creating peer-to-peer sharing networks.

In the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, Rachel Botsman, coauthor of the book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, explained the concept of a collaborative economy and identified the potential future role it could play in the healthcare industry.

Botsman posits that the growing waste, broken trust, unnecessary complexity, and redundancy in the medical field could be mitigated by a shared economy model. Some other unused or underused resources that could be tapped into with a sharing economy model include things like excess food, unused gym memberships, and the skills and knowledge of retired health care workers.

In addition, some hospitals have already created peer-to-peer networks in which expensive medical equipment can be shared with or rented to other hospitals that need them.  Because each hospital does not need to invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase their own device, it removes waste from the system and allows new technology to be adopted and utilized more quickly and efficiently, which can mean better and more affordable care for patients.

Botsman attributes the growing popularity of collaborative consumption to the rise in peer trust that is beginning to surpass the trust people have in traditional companies, as well as people’s increasing expectation and demand for two-way interactions. These ideas echo some of the underlying principles in the growing healthcare trends of patient empowerment and shared decision making.

 

What are some health or healthcare issues that you think could be addressed by a shared economy system? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Happy National Make a Friend Day!

Happy National Make a Friend Day!

In honor of friends both old and new, I want to highlight some of the health benefits that friendship can have on our lives:

  • Friends help you manage stress
    • By providing emotional support, information, and material aid, friends help you to better deal with the stressors in your life
  • Friends encourage you to take better care of yourself
    • By volunteering as your gym buddy, or supporting you during your attempt to quit smoking, friends can provide the encouragement needed to initiate and maintain healthy lifestyle changes
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Increase your feelings of peace and contentment
    • By fulfilling the evolutionary need for the social connections that were vital to human survival, social connections give you a sense of security and ease
  • Increase lifespan
    • The Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging found that seniors who had close friends had increased longevity (friendship was found to be even more important than relationships with adult children and other family members)

So go out today and make a new friend, or at the very least, take time to appreciate the positive impact that your current friends have made on your life and well-being!

Mental health Monday: Orange County gets dementia-friendly

Dementia friendly logoNovember is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month, and both are being marked in Orange County by the rollout of the Orange County Dementia-Friendly Business Campaign.

That doesn’t mean that Orange County businesses want to drive you to dementia. Rather, participating businesses have committed to their consumer-facing employees taking a two-hour training in how to interact with people who may have dementia. Those businesses will also display the program’s logo near their entrances.

The idea is to recognize that more than 5 million Americans—more than 1 in 9 older people—are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. They have unique needs, especially when they interact with the community at large. Participating businesses are signaling that they are sensitive to those needs.

DeWana Anderson, a Carrboro veterinarian, said in a Chapel Hill News article that she found the training useful in working with some of the older people who bring their pets in for help.

“They may know what they want to say and they may know how they want to say it,” she said, “but when stuff hits them too fast, it can flabbergast them.”

The article said the staff at The Animal Hospital “learned through the training to ask simple questions and provide clear instructions to someone who has trouble understanding.”

The Dementia-Friendly Orange County site has more information on how to participate in the program, including a 19-minute training video. It’s aimed at teaching businesses how to be dementia-friendly, but which contains a lot of good tips for anybody who interacts with folks with dementia.

Dewey Mooring on Three Simple Rules for Marketing Success

Earlier this week, the writers of Upstream had the pleasure of hearing Dewey Mooring, the Vice President of Jennings: Healthcare Marketing talk about three simple rules for marketing success.

Mooring, a UNC alumni, graduated with a B.A. in Radio, TV and Motion pictures in 1993. He started his career in communications at WCHL, a local radio station in Chapel Hill, by helping with the broadcast of Tar Heel basketball and football games.

Fifteen years ago, he decided to join the advertising world, and now as the Vice President of Jennings, he leads the account team, authors strategic plans, creative briefs, and oversees research for various clients including Vidant Health, Cooper University Health Care, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and Darmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, among others.

As aspiring health communicators, we all benefited from Mooring’s valuable advice about successful marketing. He offered these three simple rules to follow:

1.) Know

Get to know your audience. If you don’t understand who you’re talking to, you won’t be successful in talking to them. Mooring suggests creating a persona for your audience in order to best market to them. Give that person a name, an age, a salary, and find out their media interests, like what they watch on TV, what magazines they read, and what brands they like.

2.) Engage

Once you get to know your audience, it becomes important to use this information to engage them. In the world of healthcare, peer-to-peer communication has become a huge trend, especially among online health information seekers. Because of this, finding ways to use social and digital media to connect brands with their target audiences can be a successful strategy. Mooring exemplifies this by talking about the company’s use of a blog for Lowell General Hospital & Floating Hospital for Children titled, Our Circle of Moms, that engages moms in the hospital’s brand by allowing them to connect and share with other moms in the community.

3.) Measure

When working with clients, it is important to not only show them what you spent their money on, but also to justify the money spent with measured results. This can be done by keeping track of visits to websites, how many people signed up for a program after information sessions, and radio and digital reach. Mooring points out that while measuring results is easier than it was before, it can still be difficult in the area of healthcare, as the majority of hospital services and treatments do not lend themselves to immediate action by consumers.

Mental health Monday: Alzheimer’s at the holidays

end of family dinnerPeople all across America are looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving. We’re making lists, shopping, cooking, packing, baking and getting in the holiday mood. And we’re mentally girding ourselves for our relatives. Going home often means seeing relatives. And depending on the relatives you’ve got, that might be terrific—or maybe not.

November is both Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month.  If you have a family member with one of the dementias (which we often lump together under the term “Alzheimer’s disease”), the reunion can be bittersweet. You love this person, but his or her behavior can cause real hardship for the people around him or her, especially at the holidays. However, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are ways to make holidays better for the whole family:

1) Adjust expectations. A family conference call before folks arrive for the big day can let everyone know in advance how Uncle Charlie is doing and what he needs to stay on an even keel. And do you need turkey and ham and venison and Cornish game hens? Keep it simple.

2) Involve the person with dementia. Focus on what s/he can do, not what s/he can’t. If it’s not a good idea to give Aunt Carla a knife to chop onions, maybe she can mix dough, or dry dishes, or tell stories to younger kids.

3) Don’t forget family members. Even if Grandpa doesn’t talk, don’t assume he doesn’t see and hear. The person you love is in there, even if his neurons are keeping him from expressing himself the way he used to. Consider switching the big dinner to a big lunch or brunch, because lots of folks with dementias do better earlier in the day. And remember that caregiving is a huge responsibility—take advantage of family members being around to give Grandpa’s caregiver some respite.

For more detail about the suggestions above, and a lot of other very useful information about dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Association page at alz.org.