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Interview: Manager of Infection Prevention Talks About Social Media For Healthcare Professionals

October 06, 2015

social-media-healthcareSocial media use has been increasing steadily for a number of years. As the technology evolves, more and more people are embracing it in their professional lives and realizing its benefits in sharing information, networking and advertising. Healthcare professionals and infection preventionists are among those that are engaging in conversations online about the issues that matter most to them in their daily work lives - like infection prevention, improving hand hygiene compliance rates, pandemic planning and patient safety.


A survey of more than 4,000 physicians conducted by the social media site QuantiaMD found that 65% use sites for professional reasons. Nearly a third of physicians have reported participating in social networks and both personal and professional use of social media by physicians is increasing.


Barley Chironda, Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, shares his experience and advice on how to get started in social media for professional use, and how it can benefit you in your professional healthcare career. As a Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at a busy 400 bed hospital, Barley spends his days from 9 am to 5 pm ensuring that his 3000 staff, volunteers and patients don’t contract infections while they are in the hospital (HAIs), by looking at every single risk factor and ensuring they all know what to do to mitigate the spread of infections.


In his personal time, he works on spreading infection control and prevention knowledge through social media and through other various things, and uses platforms like Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIN.


In your experience, what are the main challenges with hand hygiene compliance in healthcare and in public places in general?


I think the biggest challenge to hand hygiene - is time. I think people feel like they do not have time, we live in a world with so many competing interests, people are just always in a rush and do not find the time. There’s been many studies done that show that healthcare workers when their faced with staffing ratios that are extremely high, their hand hygiene compliance goes low. When hand hygiene is tracked over time over a shift for example, healthcare workers that come in their shift early on are more likely to wash their hands and then drop off at the end of the day. So really I think it comes down to time and it comes down to the overall reminder and cues, to remind yourself to practice hand hygiene. Most people really want to do the right thing but with time coming in, hand hygiene comes in as a second or third or fourth priority to other things and that’s when it generally falls apart. This is something that happens when you look at people at a festival and there are portable toilets outside and look at people washing their hands coming out, most people go straight to line up for the next food or burgers and bypass the whole hand hygiene principle. So I think it comes down to time and the ability of having the necessary pieces to remind you. 


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We see that you are very active on social media. How do you use social media to spread the message of the importance of infection prevention and hand hygiene?


For me social media is something that I try to do as I said before through Twitter, Instagram and also through LinkedIN. The way I use is by connecting with other like minds, so when I see people in England doing some amazing things whether it’s John Otter or other great minds, I try to connect with them to see what are they are thinking, what are they sharing and posting and then I get to know what’s going on. I also follow certain key things like APIC and certain other key stakeholders, and I follow people like the “Germ Guy”. And just generally by connecting with all these people to get to the pulse of what’s going on, you get to be established as an expert. But more importantly, by connecting with these people I’ve been able to take this message and make it simple for people that really want to get it, put in laymen’s terms so that people in the public also understand the kind of things that we do. But at the same time I’m able to reach a wider demographic, so when I go anywhere across the world I’m often approached with people saying “Oh we’ve seen your Tweets” or “We’ve seen your LinkedIN post” and it really helps using social media to get that kind of effect.


Do you find it effective?


Absolutely yes. Social media is criticial. Social Media is very effective. Social Media is actually been very helpful for me over the last year or when I go to different countries to connect with people before I even get there. So by the time I get to the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Philadelphia I’ve been able to connect with people prior to my arrival in that country or city and actually have a relationship. Then when I get there it’s interesting how I’m able to connect and share and pass on information. So now the world is not just my little office or my little hospital or my little city or my little country, it’s now a global connection of ideas and where you can put out a question like “I’m struggling with this about Ebola” or “I’m struggling with this about hand hygiene” and you get multiple and multiple responses. And that’s from the power of my phone or my computer and that’s why we love social media.


What are some ways people can start engaging in conversations about infection prevention over social media?


First off, I like just the hashtag #handhygiene, that’s critical for me. I like following people like Jon Otter, The Germ Guy, IPAC Canada, IPS, IFIC.  In terms of blogs, Jon Otter has a cool blog called Micro Blog and now Reflections on Infection Prevention and Control Blog, there are also a couple blogs coming out of Iowa University related to a couple of physicians that I do work with. I also like following these hastags: #healthcare #HCLDR #HCSM #HCSMCA, #IPACCanada and many other conference hashtags like  #APIC2015 #IPS2015 #IFIC2015


What are you favourite groups, people, blogs or hashtags relevant to infection prevention and hand hygiene?


My top folks I follow are: @APIC  @eliowa @MuskiePhD  @NicoleCronKenny  @emrsa15  @handhygienepro  @aetiology  @salahq  @cdiffFoundation  @pollygary  @JATetro  @timwiemken  @IPS_Infection  @mystjoes  @ycrehore  @IPACCanada @jonotter  @loveebhc  and blogs by @eliowa @MuskiePhD  @NicoleCronKenny


Do you have any tips on getting started on social media?


Getting started is just a matter of starting small. Look up what people are doing it, get to see what they’re doing and posting. Is there any value in sharing a post? At the end of the day it’s getting to see what other people are which stimulates your ideas and before you know, you’re actually sharing. And then once you’ve started you want to see what gives you traction, so looking at analytics is a good way to go. So you can see what people of bright minds and some of the people you’re connected with saying, doing, talking about. And it’s always nice to connect with people, so ask other people, you can DM (Direct Message) people or even just send them emails to connect. One thing most people miss most about social media is that it’s made up of two words. Social and Media. The social part is the connection piece, the ability to network and the media is around technology. So you’re combining the ability to connect with people through technology. I hope it’s valuable to you.


Listen to the whole interview. 


About the Author

Barley-ChirondaBarley Chironda is an Infection Preventionist at a large community hospital in Ontario, Canada. He enjoys process improvement and implementing change aimed at lowering Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs).  Follow @barleychironda on twitter or LinkedIN for an opportunity to stay in the know of current developments in Infection Prevention and Control. 






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