Background National quality campaigns often sponsor online communities; however, little is known about whether and how organisations use these communities, and the impact of their use.
Methods We conducted a longitudinal study of the D2B Online Community, which was sponsored by the D2B Alliance, a campaign to improve heart attack care. We examined community use, helpfulness, and impact on care for 731 Alliance-hospitals. Our data sources were a hospital survey, the archive of messages sent and the National Cardiovascular Data Registry’s time-to-treatment data.
Results About 52% of hospitals (n=378/731) studied used the online community, with 27% of hospitals (n=195) contributing messages to the online community, while 25% (n=183) were silent users. Silent users were hospitals that reported staff use of the online community, but their staff did not send any messages. In the vast majority of contributing hospitals, only one individual contributed messages to the community. Contributing individuals, mostly nurses (70%), sent a total of 1155 messages, with 36% of messages sent by 11 high-volume users (5%). Messages discussed techniques for improving performance, performance measurement issues, location and interpretation of expert guidance and how to manage staff role changes. We found no statistical association between community use and improved time-to-treatment; however, many users rated the community highly for helpfulness.
Conclusion Many organisations used the online community for information exchange and found it helpful, despite its lack of association with performance improvement, suggesting what benefits there are may not directly link to performance.
- Quality improvement
- organisational learning
- online systems
- information sharing
- national quality campaigns
- evidence-based medicine
- healthcare quality improvement
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