The difference between sharing information and information sharing

Nathaniel Aust
Dissemination Coordinator
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

My background is in communications. To be more precise public-sector communications and I’ve learnt a lot over the last eight years about audiences, return on investments, monitoring and impact.

In most respects, communications is about sharing information, making sure the right people know the right things at the right time to encourage them to change behaviour, access a new service or buy a new product. There is a fairly simple process for this to happen:

  1. Understand the outcome, your audience and the impact you are trying to achieve.
  2. Decide on the best channels and write some sort of clever communication line.
  3. Work with your design team to get a glossy leaflet, poster or social media message.
  4. Send, send, send.
  5. Sit back, measure the impact and work out what you can change for next time.

If only all information sharing was this simple.

Working on the Police and health information sharing resource opened my eyes to a completely new form of sharing information.

If you apply the same principles to public sector communications to sharing information between health and Police then, in theory, it should be simple:

  • the intended outcome of sharing information about an individual is to help them with a health issue or ensure theirs or the public’s safety, that they do not commit crime etc.;
  • the audience is the health professional and the police professional with the expertise to do this; and
  • as the audience is so small the channels should be simple.

It wasn’t until I started to delve more deeply into this work that I discovered the many additional layers of detail to consider which involve the people that these services are for:

  • Has consent been given? If yes, who for?
  • If no consent has been given, is there a legal reason that it can be shared in the best interest of the individual or wider community?
  • Is the information being shared securely?
  • Who else might need to know the information?
  • What are the outcomes for the individual if the information is shared?

These are issues that may be perceived as barriers to information sharing and are insurmountable obstacles, this couldn’t be further from the truth – but don’t just take my word for it.

The Police and health information sharing resource we have produced has examples from places around the country where information sharing between health and the Police is taking place and making a real difference to individuals and the local communities.

You can download your copy of the resource here.

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