A Global Online Network Lets Health Professionals Share Expertise

Rebecca Weintraub, Aaron C. Beals, Sophie G. Beauvais, Marie Connelly, Julie Rosenberg Talbot, Aaron VanDerlip, and Keri Wachter in HBR Blog Network : “In response, our team at the Global Health Delivery Project at Harvard launched an online platform to generate and disseminate knowledge in health care delivery. With guidance from Paul English, chief technology officer of Kayak, we borrowed a common tool from business — professional virtual communities (PVCs) — and adapted it to leverage the wisdom of the crowds.  In business, PVCs are used for knowledge management and exchange across multiple organizations, industries, and geographies. In health care, we thought, they could be a rapid, practical means for diverse professionals to share insights and tactics. As GHDonline’s rapid growth and success have demonstrated, they can indeed be a valuable tool for improving the efficiency, quality, and the ultimate value of health care delivery….
Creating a professional virtual network that would be high quality, participatory, and trusted required some trial and error both in terms of the content and technology. What features would make the site inviting, accessible, and useful? How could members establish trust? What would it take to involve professionals from differing time zones in different languages?
The team launched GHDonline in June 2008 with public communities in tuberculosis-infection control, drug-resistant tuberculosis, adherence and retention, and health information technology. Bowing to the reality of the sporadic electricity service and limited internet bandwidth available in many countries, we built a lightweight platform, meaning that the site minimized the use of images and only had features deemed essential….
Even with early successes in terms of membership growth and daily postings to communities, user feedback and analytics directed the team to simplify the user navigation and experience. Longer, more nuanced, in-depth conversations in the communities were turned into “discussion briefs” — two-page, moderator-reviewed summaries of the conversations. The GHDonline team integrated Google Translate to accommodate the growing number of non-native English speakers. New public communities were launched for nursing, surgery, and HIV and malaria treatment and prevention. You can view all of the features of GHDOnline here (PDF).”