About five years ago, Rebecca Weintraub, MD, associate physician in the BWH Division of Global Health Equity, was on call late at night in Rwanda tending to hundreds of patients, some with diseases she’d never seen before.
Hoping for help with consultation on these cases, Weintraub emailed fellow BWHers who were also on call back at home and received swift replies. After leaving Rwanda, she knew she had to figure out a way to systematize this process, explaining that she couldn’t have been the only practitioner looking for advice from peers who were thousands of miles away.
“What this made me realize is that we have such an altruistic group of providers at BWH and we had to create more common channels for communication,” she said.
What is GHDonline?
Fast forward to today and to Global Health Delivery Online (GHDonline), a product of the Global Health Delivery Project and a collaboration between BWH, Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard Business School. GHD is a flourishing platform that hosts online communities, or professional virtual networks, that allow health care professionals to share expertise and come together to improve the delivery of health care worldwide.
“We wanted people who are working in global health to have a sense of connection to each other and to the information they are missing,” said Aaron Beals, information systems project manager in the BWH Department of Medicine’s Division of Global Health Equity and director of product development for the Global Health Delivery Project, who helped build GHDonline.
Spanning more than 182 countries and 3,852 organizations, GHDonline’s 12,000-plus members include clinicians, researchers, students, policy makers and managers.
Members can logon to the site at any time to discuss and read about important issues in the various communities, such as global health nursing and midwifery; HIV treatment and prevention; endemic non-communicable diseases; and global surgery and anesthesia. There are also private communities where clinicians can discuss various diseases or global health issues more in-depth.
In addition, content and services, such as peer-reviewed discussion briefs, reviews of scholarly articles and GHD’s collection of global health case studies are available to members.
Expert Moderators Keep Discussions Lively, Relevant
More than 40 expert moderators lead and monitor the communities on GHDonline. Their tasks include encouraging discussion and participation and keeping resources relevant and up-to-date. Currently, 11 of the 42 GHDonline moderators are affiliated with BWH.
Amol Navathe, MD, PhD, an internal medicine physician at BWH and clinical fellow at HMS, is a moderator of GHDonline’s Innovating Health Care Delivery community. He described GHDonline as a very powerful tool for people interested in global health.
“To have a forum where practitioners can connect to one another is important,” he said. “GHDonline is made up of a collection of folks who are not only motivated for change but are also interested in learning from one another.”
Looking to the Future
For the GHDonline team, the motto has always been “quality over quantity.” Beals said looking ahead, the team will focus their energies on the needs of its member base, continue providing high-quality content and encourage discussions to keep flowing.
The team is also looking at the next tier of collaboration tools and ways to encourage community participation.
“We’ve found that while many people in the communities are active in discussions, many more are active readers,” said Beals. “So we’re trying to find ways to get those active readers to contribute. Whether it is uploading a resource or contributing to a collection of documents on our ‘must-read’ list, we want to get folks to engage in the exchange of knowledge.”
GHDonline is also interested in ways to track the professional development of the communities’ members.
“We feel like their participation in GHDonline is part of their professional growth,” said Beals. Weintraub said the team is looking into digital badges that members can earn based on their time and contributions to GHDonline.
Weintraub, who now also serves as faculty director of the Global Health Delivery Project, added: “When I’m on service at BWH, I provide better care to patients with informal consultations and exchange among BWH providers. On GHDonline, we extend this practice to our 12,000-plus members and discuss their daily challenges and find new innovations to generate value for patients across the globe.”