• Anaesthesia · May 2020

    Editorial

    The COVID-19 information pandemic: how have we managed the surge?

    An editorial on pandemic information overload?

    Yep. 😉

    But setting aside the irony of adding 2,000 more words on COVID-19 information overload, Kearsley & Duffy neatly explore the challenge:

    "Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our e-mail inboxes, social media feeds and even general news outlets have become saturated with new guidelines, revisions of guidelines, new protocols and updated protocols, all subject to constant amendments."

    What's the thesis?

    The authors' argument is that too much information in the era of COVID may be a bad thing: the marginal benefit of 'more' may be overwhelmed by the negative cost.

    They acknowledge the tension between the pragmatic and perfect when it comes to information sources in the face of a rapidly advancing disease – and in particular the recurrent waves of shifting clinical guidelines.

    Kearsley & Duffy mention the important role of rapid research, worryingly tempered by a surge in volume, but fall in quality, along with mainstream promotion of non-peer reviewed and pre-print investigations. They note how information technology in the pandemic climate exploits our biases: confirmation, anchoring, and novelty.

    At an individual level they discuss the risk of pandemic 'alert fatigue', the growth of social media and excessive information sharing making quality assessment difficult, and the negative effect of both on well-being.

    The take-home

    We each have significant personal responsibility to consider the consequences when sharing information, especially if incomplete or risk of misunderstanding when stripped of context.

    "As we learn to live with this virus it is important for us to be cognisant that we are all at risk of error; we need to work to reduce information overload and focus on unifying our approach to both information dissemination and presentation. We must go back to basics and apply the well-practiced human factors principles of good teamwork, communication and leadership.

    ...

    We need to avoid a situation where a crisis is overmanaged and underlead; “Ipsa scientia potestas est" or 'knowledge itself is power' – from what COVID-19 is teaching us however, can too much knowledge be a bad thing?"

    summary
    • R Kearsley and C C Duffy.
    • Department of Anaesthesia, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK.
    • Anaesthesia. 2020 May 14.

    AbstractThe severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) or Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has permanently impacted our everyday normality. Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our e-mail inboxes, social media feeds and even general news outlets have become saturated with new guidelines, revisions of guidelines, new protocols and updated protocols, all subject to constant amendments. This constant stream of information has added uncertainty and cognitive fatigue to a workforce that is under pressure. While we adapt our practice and learn how to best manage our COVID-19 patients, a second pandemic - information overload - has become our Achilles' heel.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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    Notes

    summary
    1

    An editorial on pandemic information overload?

    Yep. 😉

    But setting aside the irony of adding 2,000 more words on COVID-19 information overload, Kearsley & Duffy neatly explore the challenge:

    "Since the outbreak of this pandemic, our e-mail inboxes, social media feeds and even general news outlets have become saturated with new guidelines, revisions of guidelines, new protocols and updated protocols, all subject to constant amendments."

    What's the thesis?

    The authors' argument is that too much information in the era of COVID may be a bad thing: the marginal benefit of 'more' may be overwhelmed by the negative cost.

    They acknowledge the tension between the pragmatic and perfect when it comes to information sources in the face of a rapidly advancing disease – and in particular the recurrent waves of shifting clinical guidelines.

    Kearsley & Duffy mention the important role of rapid research, worryingly tempered by a surge in volume, but fall in quality, along with mainstream promotion of non-peer reviewed and pre-print investigations. They note how information technology in the pandemic climate exploits our biases: confirmation, anchoring, and novelty.

    At an individual level they discuss the risk of pandemic 'alert fatigue', the growth of social media and excessive information sharing making quality assessment difficult, and the negative effect of both on well-being.

    The take-home

    We each have significant personal responsibility to consider the consequences when sharing information, especially if incomplete or risk of misunderstanding when stripped of context.

    "As we learn to live with this virus it is important for us to be cognisant that we are all at risk of error; we need to work to reduce information overload and focus on unifying our approach to both information dissemination and presentation. We must go back to basics and apply the well-practiced human factors principles of good teamwork, communication and leadership.

    ...

    We need to avoid a situation where a crisis is overmanaged and underlead; “Ipsa scientia potestas est" or 'knowledge itself is power' – from what COVID-19 is teaching us however, can too much knowledge be a bad thing?"

    Daniel Jolley  Daniel Jolley
    pearl
    1

    In addition to the disease itself, COVID-19 also challenges doctors to manage an information surge of variable quality and reliability.

    Daniel Jolley  Daniel Jolley
     
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