Frequently asked questions:

What are the rules of Health Forum NZ?

The key operating principles of HFNZ are openness, trust, and mutual respect. The Terms of Service are summarised here:

  1. All health professionals are welcome
  2. The Chatham House Rule applies
  3. All content is expected to be constructive
  4. It is not to be used for commercial gain

How do you use it?

There is a Welcome to Health Forum NZ page, and a basic guide to the essentials is here: Getting Started.

There is also a #help-feedback category where you can ask for help; it includes a section of How To guides: #help-feedback:howto

More interactive alternatives are the basic tutorial or the advanced tutorial which are powered by our chatbot. Alternatively you can read this guide about Discourse for a deeper dive:

Will it work on my phone?

Yes. Health Forum NZ will switch automatically to a mobile layout for smaller screens. It will prompt you to ask if you want to install a shortcut to it on your homescreen. As it runs in a browser, notifications might not be quite as slick as some of the commercial apps you are used to; you should be asked automatically if you want them turned on, or they can be switched on here.

If you prefer, there is a Discourse Hub app you can download for Android or iPhone/iPad. This app is designed for people who are on several Discourse Forums, so doesn’t add much for most of our users. To set it up:

  1. Click on the meta.discourse.org text first, then click the + sign above it
  2. In the grey bar that appears type ‘healthforum.nz
  3. Click ‘connect’, and you will be prompted to login
  4. Authorize your phone to access the platform

What is an internet forum?

An internet forum is an online community that focuses on building community conversations around content. The community is often an established social group, with the online forum a place to expanded community-wide conversation, and the content of the conversation is organized and managed by the group. Thus, the focus of the forum is the content of the conversation. This differs from the social networks, where the purpose is to build a network by connecting individuals. A forum can be seen as group-centered, based on an established group, whereas a social network is individual-centered, designed to connect individuals to create a network or group.

Which software platform is this running on?

Health Forum NZ utilises 150px-Discourse.svg - this is an open source discussion platform using cutting edge web features and code. Discourse.org earn their living by setting up and hosting online communities using their software for companies and charities (e.g., an open source software business model); some local examples are Bank of New Zealand and Choice Australia. They also make their code freely available to others, which we have utilised. Our particular instance is self-hosted securely in New Zealand, i.e. we are managing the technical stuff in-house, and it has been customised to fit the needs of New Zealand’s health professionals. Discourse.org are supporting us by providing help and advice free of charge, which is invaluable.

Is there any cost to join Health Forum NZ?

Health Forum NZ is free to join and to use, and we plan to keep it that way. And not like the other ‘free’ services (such as the commercial Social Networks) that you pay for with your data or by exposure to adverts. Proper free. In time we will need to find a way to make it sustainable; we anticipate that this will be via donations from either individuals or organisations.

Is my personal information secure?

We collect this information in order to facilitate communication within and between groups. For example, you may wish to speak to ‘all GPs’ or ‘all nurses in Otago’; the information we collect when you register allows this to happen. Only what is necessary is displayed to other members.

Your data remains within Health Forum NZ and will not be shared with any third party without your explicit consent. If you wish to leave Health Forum NZ, your account can be deleted completely.

Is Health Forum NZ only open to clinicians?

We have designed this as a platform for a wide range of healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, support staff, and managers working in healthcare. It may broaden to cover other health related professions if this is thought to be in everyone’s best interest.

It is not open to industry, but rather health professionals - regardless of their employer. It is not open to members of the public, with the exception of vetted members of Health Consumer Councils.

In future, we may create an area open to the public, but those areas will be separate from the area for healthcare providers.

Is my communication secure?

A secure connection is used for all data transfer (you will see a lock next to the browser address bar), and the site uses current best practice encryption technologies. People are validated as clinicians, either by moderators or authentication keys in emails. However nothing is perfect, and for example, a registered user may forget to logout with the computer left open with other people wandering past. Also people can choose to be sent email updates, and email is only as secure as the recipient’s email setup. As such it is best to treat this forum as ‘grand rounds’ level security - you can have frank clinical discussion but you will not know every colleague present and should not identify patients by name without express permission of the patient.

Is it possible to communicate directly with my colleagues by region or specialty?

Absolutely. There is a structured Category for each major area, which is only visible to the relevant groups. In addition, the data that we collect when you sign up is chiefly to enable us to easily create more specialised or regionalised sub-forums if needed. If you want this, ask the @admins who can set this up for you.

What is the advantage of using Health Forum NZ over email?

In six words: productivity, categorisation, moderation, summaries, polling, wikis

  1. Productivity because your email is not receiving a continuous stream of reply-all responses and a forum is more conducive to finishing tasks at hand and return at intervals to rejoin the discussion.
  2. Categorisation - visit threads & topics which are of mild interest infrequently and vice versa.
  3. Moderation - having threads posted in the wrong category re-categorised, offensive posts removed etc. is much more pleasant than long email chains.
  4. Summaries - you can be updated every time someone posts to a thread you are following, receive daily or weekly summaries, or both. These are controlled in your preferences. You can also reply in your email to subscribed topics and it will appear back on this forum (without annoying your colleagues in the way a ‘reply all’ might)!
  5. Polls - it is very easy to poll your colleagues and tally votes in a forum. The data presentation is impressive and real-time.
  6. Wikis - you can create a wiki, which users with access to that category can modify. The changes are all recorded and can be rolled back if needed. These posts are green.

What is the advantage of using Health Forum NZ rather than [WhatsApp/Telegram/Facebook Messenger]?

These web based messaging tools are powerful, but much of the discussion which occurs does not need instant notification. Other advantages relate to points regarding advantages over email (the paragraph above). The roadmap for this project does have emergency messaging notifications on it, but only after it can be integrated in such a way that users do not feel spammed or annoyed by excessive notifications.

What is the advantage of using Health Forum NZ rather than [Facebook/LinkedIn/Google] private groups?

You are the product for these companies, and every word you enter is being analysed for its advertising value. Similarly a number of your colleagues will not be members of the social media platforms mentioned, either because of disinterest, difficulties moderating time spent on such platforms or ethical rejections (from token efforts at minimising the spread of ‘fake news’, to carelessness with or downright misuse of personal data, to failure to censor video content related to wanton atrocities).

What about Slack or Microsoft Teams?

These are also powerful (and expensive) communication tools. However, they are more suited to small group collaboration and start to struggle when channels / teams get over 50. Health Forum NZ has the capacity to handle all 250,000 of NZ’s health care workers. And do it for a fraction of the cost.

What will happen to Health Forum NZ once the threat of covid-19 has passed?

Health Forum NZ has been set up in response to COVID-19, but will continue to be available to NZ health professionals into the future. We hope that it will be adopted as a long term (but independent) part of NZ’s healthcare communication strategy.

Are there any commercial interests at play?

Health Forum NZ has been created by clinicians and health informations who are either working pro bono or utilising DHB time. They will not benefit financially from its success and have no conflicts of interest.

Data held within Health Forum NZ will never be shared with commercial interests, and the site will always be hosted on NZ servers so that NZ privacy regulations are the only regulations that will be applicable.

Web hosting, technical support and oversight of Health Forum may change over time, but will only ever include NZ government health bodies, professional colleges, associations or societies.

I am only interested in a highly specific feed related to my specialty.

That is fine; if a Category, Topic, or Group is putting out stuff that you aren’t interested in, then you can Mute that category. You do this by clicking on the image and selecting “Muted”. If there is content that you really want to hear about immediately, set this to “Watching”. The other settings are intermediate. This can also be done by clicking on the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of an email from Heath Forum NZ.

How do I keep the number of emails from Health Forum NZ under control?

You can do this either via

  1. The Discourse forum: go to My Preferences > Emails. The emailing options should be fairly self explanatory form there.
  2. By clicking on the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of any email from Health Forum NZ.

How do I ask a question that you haven’t answered here in the FAQ?

Just take a look in #site-feedback; you may find what you need by searching that Category. If you can’t find an answer, then post a Topic in there asking your question. You’ll get a prompt reply from our @staff.

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