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Dianne Zalitis
Social media innovation: together we beat the tyranny of distance

Dianne Zalitis is a midwife with over 30 years’ practice, having worked the majority of her career in rural New South Wales—first as a clinical midwife at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and then for 10 years as the Clinical Midwifery Consultant for the area health service. A city change move to Sydney was motivated by an enhanced career opportunity for her husband. A move that has in fact enhanced her career opportunities as well. Dianne continues in clinical practice in delivery suite at Prince of Wales Private, while working to enhance the services available to pregnant women and new parents nationally. Dianne’s main work is as the Clinical Lead for the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Services at Healthdirect Australia, a COAG-funded company charged with procuring and providing online and telehealth services to all Australians. Dianne oversees the services provided by Healthdirect that relate to expecting parents and parents of children under five years.


Introduction: This paper will discuss innovations using existing social media infrastructures to provide an effective pregnancy and parenting service that meets the needs of rural and remote Australians, without any direct face to face contact. Healthdirect Australia’s social media research, analytics data and qualitative evaluation explores the consumers’ expectations and how healthcare providers may operate in this environment.

Rationale: Pregnancy, Birth and Baby (PBB) provides a maternal child health nurse service completely within the digital multimedia environment, utilising telephone, video, website and Facebook to communicate, provide advice and support.

Our data shows 77% of women access PBB via their mobile device with the main age group, 24 to 35, using social media as their first information source choice and for peer validation. The similarity between birthing age groups and social media users provides an opportunity to engage parents and address access concerns.

Healthdirect piloted live Facebook forums with nurses answering parents’ questions, exploring the multichannel environment from both the consumers and healthcare providers’ expectations. Objectives were to learn about audience behaviour, scale, workflow, editorial process and risk management. Building understanding of the forum requirements, benefits, outcomes and ability to scale up.

Discussion: The forums connected expecting and new parents and nurses in a social environment without the need to travel or use the phone. This facilitated community building and promoted engagement through sharing of content overcoming the tyranny of distance and isolation. The topics allowed parents to ask any question and allowed us to be present in the same digital space with them.

Participation expanded the professional scope of the nurses involved, increasing their social media literacy, developing their response writing confidence and they had fun. The Facebook forums, with their ability to form supportive social networks for isolated and vulnerable families, reached our national consumer audience. Fundamentally putting the rural family, their needs and aspirations at the centre of our service provision.

The innovation development process included risk management meetings, proposals, approvals from executive, time and work flow reviews, resulting in functioning forums that operated safely and independently of restrictive oversight.

Conclusions and implications for practice: Implications for using social media forums within practice include:

  • training
  • tone of the written voice and drafting answers to reduce stress of writing ‘on the fly’.
  • managing risk
  • audience engagement in topic selection
  • allocating people to roles in live chat.
Presentation | Paper