Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online

The Health Care Communications & Social Media group on Twitter tends to generate some interesting side projects and collaborations. A few weeks ago, during our#HCSM chat, I ventured that we as group ought to take a project on that all of us could contribute to with a public health focus. This article will briefly document that process and summarize the aims of the effort to date. Regular installments will follow on our progress. If we succeed in some small way, our efforts may serve as a model for others to jump in and launch their own public health campaigns.

Tweet Suggesting Public Health Project

Within seconds of my initial tweet, Dr. April Foreman (@DocForeman) and I began bantering ideas to come up with an Immunization Project.

Twitter Collaboration

Several other #HCSM colleagues contributed to shape the effort, including Nate Osit (@NateOsit)  in providing invaluable technical assistance and an immediate social media presence for the newly formed #hcsmvac group. Erica Olenski (@TheGr8Chalupa) began suggesting cities to consider, as did Shalama Jackson (@shalamajackson), and Dr. Aimee Roundtree (@akroundtree) noted made her pitch for Kansas City, MO.

Tweet on Kansas City and Low Immunization Rates

We ultimately conducted a Twitter poll vote, inviting everyone from the larger #hcsm community on Twitter to help us select among the nominated candidates. Ultimately, Kansas City was determined our chosen city to focus on.

Twiter Poll Showing Kansas City, MO as the Winner

A series of Twitter conversations followed, itemizing all the tasks to be undertaken, from amassing statistics on vaccines to figuring out where immunizations were being conducted in Kansas City. From these conversations, a mighty flow of emails came forth, with everyone volunteering to contribute in some manner. Nate Osit, serving as resident cheerleader and technical guru, launched a #hcsmvac Twitter account (@hcsmvac), About.me page,  and a Dropbox area for the group to share documents. Information on the Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services, CDC links, sample tweet messages, and many other data resources flooded in. A chat among interested folks on this project took place on May 28th, with participants sketching out tasks to be done. The focus presently is to obtain locations in the city to target and to reach out to those locales so we can find out all the details to share on Twitter (and beyond in blogs, Letters to the Editor, etc.). Meanwhile, contacting related stakeholders online involved with public health and immunology is on the group’s radar.

Ultimately, this project is to be launched in August, the corresponding health observance time for National Immunization Month. As for determining impact of this project, there are a couple of measurements that exist to help us out. To the extent that we use URL shorteners in our messages that track click volume, as with bit.ly or ow.ly, we can monitor how far and wide our #hcsmvac posts are permeating the social media stream. Secondly, we can engage with the professional contacts at various immunization clinics that we promote to see if any traction was observed from our tweets (e.g. did anyone report hearing about the availability of vaccines through Twitter?). Furthermore, we will gauge whether flu spikes are lower this year for the city of Kansas City by comparing flu trends, available at Google FluTrends. While this isn’t the most scientific measure of impact, it will give us an idea if any of our efforts extended beyond the cyber echo chamber.  As far as the #hcsmvac group is concerned, it is worth a shot.

If you’d like more information on how to get involved, go to #hcsmvac Project and drop an email,  visit @hcsmvac on Twitter, or join our Saturday morning chats at 8am PT / 11am ET.

4 Responses to Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online

  1. This project sounds fantastic! This is a great use for social media, that is launch a project with direct impact on people and the ability to track spread of the info.
    I think this will help us understand how people locate and spread healthcare information. I am eager to follow your results.

    • carmen2u says:

      Thanks, Sarah. Feel free to join in by following us on Twitter and spreading our tweets. It is propbably too early to know if we have any impact, but creating a good model for prevention advocacy is worthwhile in itself.

  2. Mike Boivin says:

    Hi Carmen,
    Great chatting in #hcsmvac today. I have quite a bit of information on immunization as I have written a certification program for healthcare professionals.

    Any data that you would like on patient communication strategies and information on immunization feel free to email me or hit me up on twitter at @commpharm

    Good luck with this project

    • carmen2u says:

      Thanks, Mike. Off the top of my head, it would be great to know what the vaccine that has the lowest vaccination rate in Kansas City (e.g. chicken pox or whooping cough, etc.)? That might give us a specific focus rather than all school vaccinations. Especially if we’re trying to see if we can have impact, it might make better sense to have a narrow target. Hope to catch you next Saturday at 8am PT on Twitter #hcsmvac.

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