E equals Quality and Safety: Producing an email newsletter for users

HLG Nursing Bulletin Vol 35 (3/4)

Daniel Simkin
Information Resources Co-ordinator
Royal College of Nursing

This article explains the process of creating the RCN Quality and Safety eBulletin, an email newsletter containing links to health care information from online sources sent to subscribers. The categories of health care information covered in the email are explained with examples of the type of content given. The selection criteria for content is explained and examples of content sources given, as well as the rationale behind creating the eBulletin and how it can meet the information needs of its audience. There is information on the software platform used to create the eBulletin and discussion on how statistics from this platform are used in evaluating the success of the eBulletin. There is also consideration of the range of devices that people use to open the email and how and why there has been an increase in access through mobile devices.

Creating the RCN Quality and Safety eBulletin

The RCN (Royal College of Nursing) Quality and Safety eBulletin is a fortnightly eBulletin produced by myself and my colleague, and delivered via email. It covers news items and newly published case studies, guidance, innovation, legislation and reports relating to health care, with a specific focus on nursing. We have recently issued our 40th eBulletin and are seeing an increase in our subscriber numbers as well as excellent click-through rates, showing that readers are engaging with the items that we are choosing to highlight. The click-through rate refers to the percentage of people who having opened the email then go on to click on the links within it.

The eBulletin is compiled and sent out fortnightly. We use Pure360, which is an email marketing tool, to create a template for the eBulletin. The software also allows us to access analytics after the eBulletin has been sent out including the geographical spread of users, the devices that people access our content on and heat maps showing the items that attracted the most views. Although the majority of our readers are from the UK, we have a significant international readership, mainly in Australia and the USA. We have recently seen a marked increase in the percentage of overall readers accessing our content through mobile devices and it is gradually overtaking those opening the email on computers and laptops. The RCN has recently launched a new mobile friendly website which may partly explain the increase in mobile access. The content from the eBulletin is also uploaded to the RCN website where it can be viewed and a PDF copy of the latest issue can be downloaded.

Our intention is to not limit the content of the eBulletin to RCN members and staff, although they make up a sizeable proportion of our subscribers. In our choice of news items we try to appeal to nurses, midwives, students and a wide range of health professionals, with an emphasis on including content from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as the RCN has offices in all four of these countries. All of the news items and publications that we highlight are openly accessible online and do not require either RCN membership or individual subscriptions to access.

We divide the eBulletin into seven topic areas: RCN highlights, quality improvement, patient safety, patient focus, eHealth, evidence-based practice and staff focus. RCN highlights gathers a fortnight’s worth of events, initiatives, news and publications from the RCN. The quality improvement section contains information about improvements in health care quality through case studies, practice examples and innovations, as well as collating recent legislation and reports. Patient safety is themed around practice examples and research that provides an insight into the developing field of human factors in health care. The patient focus section looks at issues in health care form the perspective of the patient covering areas such as the right to privacy and confidentiality and partnership working and shared decision making. The evidence-based practice section highlights guidance, research and other tools on evidence-based techniques and processes. Although the sources are mainly from the UK we do also consider international content from credible sources. The staff focus section collects content relating to workforce issues and promoting the best possible working conditions for nursing staff to be able to practise high standards of patient care. Finally we cover the fast moving world of eHealth looking at how technology can act as an enabler in delivering health care.

We gather our content from a diverse range of online sources. NHS sites such as NHS Employers, NHS Improving Quality and the NHS websites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are useful sources for current NHS news. We also look for original research from open access journals such as BMC Nursing and the Journal of Medical Internet Research. We try to achieve a balance of links to reports and legislation that inform health care, but may require specialist knowledge to read and understand, alongside more accessible news stories of general interest from the BBC and the Guardian. Much of our content also comes from independent health care charities such as The Health Foundation and The King’s Fund whose newsletters deliver their content to us via email and are also worth signing up for to keep updated on the work these organisations are involved in. Each fortnight we pick a headline story for the eBulletin (see Fig. 1) and also choose an RCN event to highlight to our subscribers (see Fig. 2).

Figure 1: Quality and Safety eBulletin header
Figure 2: Screenshot demonstrating how eBulletin is used to advertise and market various areas valuable to users

We have also produced a number of special themed eBulletins to tie in with and promote events at the RCN and national awareness campaigns. We have produced themed eBulletins for Carers Week, Dementia Awareness Week, Nutrition and Hydration Week and Older People’s Day that have proved to be some of our most popular issues. We also try and tie in these themed issues with an event in the RCN Library and Heritage Centre. In conjunction with our Nutrition and Hydration Week themed bulletin we held an afternoon tea in the Library and Heritage Centre with our professional lead for long term conditions, Amanda Cheesley, on hand to answer questions from RCN members and the public on how to maintain good levels of nutrition and hydration.

In the age of Twitter and other social media platforms, eBulletins may seem a bit old fashioned and potentially redundant. However, our experience and usage statistics have not supported this assumption and it might be argued that with so much information relating to health care available online, not all of it credible, and health care students and workers leading busy working lives, searching for relevant and useful online information may prove difficult. Our aim is that by providing a regular digest of credible and reliable evidence and information we can help meet the information needs of a wide range of health care workers. We also hope that by highlighting events, online courses and Twitter chats that we can help direct nurses towards resources that may help them gather evidence for revalidation.

The first eBulletin that we produced using Pure360 went out on 14th of August 2014 and was sent to 1,014 people. Since then our subscriber numbers have grown to just under 2,000 with our 40th eBulletin issued recently. Our usage reports indicate that our eBulletins consistently appear in the top ten emails with the highest click-through rates for the RCN, indicating that the content we are selecting is engaging and interesting to our subscribers.

If you would like to sign up to receive the eBulletin please click on the following link and submit the online form. You can also sign up to receive other RCN eBulletins covering research and innovation, and news from the RCN Library and Heritage Centre.

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