Where to from here?
The cross roads for social media medical education/ FOAMEd(Free open access Medical education)
by Dr Minh Le Cong
author of prehospitalmed.com blogsite and podcast
Whilst blogging and internet based medical education has been available for some time now, it is only in the last three years that the rise of social media platforms has taken off as a method of widespread dissemination of medical education and personal professional development. This has been likely driven by the massive adoption of personal media devices ,making it within the easy reach of individual health care providers to stay continuously connected via social media networks and to create and update medical related material on such networks, with little difficulty nor technical prowess.
In the beginning, only a few medical education blogsites and podcasts existed and these were often seen as purely personal hobbies. Now there are clearly over a hundred or so medical education blogsites, ranging from basic personal sites to fully featured podcast associated blogs. Add to that the growth of commercial online medical education sites and the adoption by virtually all medical journal publishers of online editions of their print journals, the whole array available online directly to personal smart media devices is daunting and often bewildering to newcomers.
It is clear in this climate that there will be many skeptics. The current generation of medical practitioners in established positions would not have trained with these media platforms or methods of remote education. However some see the advantages in maintaining professional development and staying abreast of cutting edge developments in their professional fields. The next generation of medical providers in training currently, are one of the largest groups of early adopters to this phenomenon.
In 2013 the community loosely subscribed to the principle of Free Open Access Meducation or so called FOAMEd, finds itself at a crossroad. Here are my thoughts.
- Quality – this by far and away is often the most asked question when the topic of FOAMEd appears to new comers. It is free by definition, created in personal time and so quality can vary. The content is uncontrolled and subject to author discretion and feedback. There are really no existing guidelines nor principles of conduct apart from the main one of the HON Code ( Health on Net), which many current bloggers in the community do not subscribe to. In the main the content is subject to the personal interests of each author. In many ways this is akin to a chef deciding what is on the menu for the day. There are many restaurants and each has a chef who decides what they are going to serve. It is left to the user/diner to decide what their tastes are for that day or month and choose to dine at which restaurant. For podcasts, users can choose what they want to consume by looking at the menu and picking and choosing. And just like dining out, if you dont like a meal or podcast you can stop eating/ turn it off. This is the true appeal of FOAMEd, the variety, freshness of thought, the immediacy of catering to a yearning mind on a search for knowledge. The desire to stay current with the best minds in the business. Normally you would need to go to a conference or subscribe to a paid journal but FOAMEd allows the access to the minds of innovators in their respective fields of medicine in an unprecedented manner. It is Somewhat akin to inviting some of the masterchefs from around the world, to cook some of their best dishes for you at your own home, for free, every night or day! And they come! But like the restaurant industry the consumer should expect some degree of standard quality in preparation and content.Just because it is free does not mean it should not meet a minimum standard. This is where FOAMEd community needs to take action and set agreed standards for content and dissemination of information. In essence an international society is needed and membership requires attainment and maintenance of regulatory standards. Just as restaurants might get awarded Michelin stars for high quality food and service, a similar international standards body needs to be established to award such certification.
- Medicolegal and copyright issues – this is an issue that needs a standard approach and advice to newcomers as it can be a potential source of much angst if not correctly addressed from the beginning. The enthusiast/hobbyist nature of blogging and podcasting often gives a sense to newcomers of an artistic license to use whatever materials available on the internet. This is of course not true and international copyright applies. An international society can ensure such respect for copyright amongst membersites. Patient confidentiality and consent issues should be the same as applied for peer reviewed medical journals when creating and publishing material for FOAMEd digestion. I see this again as a role fit for an international society. The society must have chapters for each country representative of its members so that local medical registration and professional policies relevant to Social media use can be applied
- Open access and social media responsibility – The greatest benefit and potential of FOAMEd is to allow quality medical education to all levels of health care provider in lower socioeconomic status nations. This is an improvement from the traditional charity practice of donating old textbooks to students and doctors in developing countries. With FOAMEd they can access the latest developments and information relevant to health care for their populations. Many doctors from developing nations simply cannot afford to travel to attend and present at medical conferences, but with the power of FOAMEd, the conference content can be delivered to them in real time and asynchronously. This I forsee is the greatest role of an international society of FOAMEd , the dissemination of conference material in real time and via podcasting to colleagues unable to attend due to financial, political or social constraints.
- Establishing the evidence base for FOAMEd – there is a need to assess , document and research the strengths and weaknesses of this phenomenon in medical education. There are many skeptics and little success stories or affirming evidence exists in an open forum. Holding medical conferences with strong social media focus will help start to disseminate proven success stories and promote the benefits of FOAMEd.
- Mentorship of FOAMEd – a society needs to setup a group of mentors and educators who can pass on the skills and knowledge in establishing and developing blogsites and podcasts and working on social media platforms as a health professional.
In the short time I have been involved in FOAMEd , in setting up my own blogsite and podcast, I have improved my clinical practice, skills and knowledge several fold, more so than many years of attending conferences and short medical courses. Almost all of my FOAMEd teachers I have never personally met. In the words of a doctor witnessing the first ever general anaesthetic, “This is no humbug!”
MARCH 2013 News flash
Check out Chris Nickson’s article released on Kevin MD blogsite!