Monday, May 12, 2008

Contagious Media

My purpose in writing this is to promote I believe could be an arm of Nurse Informatics expertise in the near future: social and contagious media. Up front I'd like to ask those in the positions of leadership to consider a conference part, or in whole, dedicated to exploring this.

I was very pleased to see that many others promoted "The Wisdom of Patients: Health Care Meets Online Social Media" (, as it has been an area I've been most interested in for a long time now. It has been my hope in going into Nursing Informatics to promote the value of it in patient education and support. [Note: I joined, a social network, to connect to Jane Sarasohn-Kahn regularly. It's one venue for learning about the medium and connecting to others "socially" and professionally.]

My most recent readings have focused on online support groups, investigating their characteristics, requirements, qualities, and overall value. The number one thing I've learned is that patients will turn away from providers without adequate support, and rely instead on poor information from their peers. To address that, Nursing Informaticists could have an expanded or niche role in providing online education and support to healthcare consumers. Education is in the nursing domain.

Consider watching the following viral video. While watching it, please consider what age group is most likely to benefit from it? What age group is most likely to forward it to friends? What group is most affected by the issues in the video? Finally, what group would benefit from "contagiously" sharing this video, based on the lure of age-specific, apparently crude humor with their friends? Think of the power of the internet in that millions of people across various avenues have forward this video in one format or another to each other and, ultimately, gotten the healthcare message.

I apologize in advance if it offends anyone, but I hope you'll see the potential in other areas, and get the idea of how to mold contagious media to other health education endeavors. (It comes with a click to say you're over 18 disclaimer to watch.) (Note: This website is one of many social networks spreading this video.)

Having watched it, think of what other diseases and treatments and health issues you could come up with videos for. What age-appropriate material could you see causing someone to want to forward such a video? As Nurses, education is within our domain, and this technology could really be a specialty for us as NIs, and one might consider it a "professional responsibility."

For my undergrad in IT, I did my senior thesis on a facet of social networks: contagious media, which is a subset of viral networks. The final version took over 50 megs and included videos and such. It was a fun, contagious product itself!

Thanks for listening, and considering. I hope I haven't been gauche and that you'll see the value in these tools, and potential in NI to develop their for the betterment of our patients.

Richard Aries, BS, RN

Student, Master of Science in Nursing (Nursing Informatics)
School of Nursing, Vanderbilt University

For more information about the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing MSN-Nursing Informatics curriculum, please visit:


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