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Does Social Media Have a Place in Medical Education?

Social media is among the fastest growing and most transformative of new technologies. In the space of only a few years, the use of social media has transformed the way people think, share information, and communicate. Given that social media is likely here to stay, an important question is how social media impacts oncologists and hematologists. How can these physicians use social media to improve their practice, and how can independent medical education (IME) providers use social media to engage with oncologists and improve their educational offerings?

As social media has become more prevalent, more and more physicians have begun to engage with this form of technology. According to a recent survey, roughly half of responding physicians use social media to keep up with healthcare news and engage in active discussions about medical care. Some use it to communicate ideas and information with their colleagues. Others use it as a platform to share important news and advice with the patient community. And more recently, physicians have begun to use social media as an educational tool and a place to receive continuing medical education (CME).

Given these developments, how can IME providers tailor content specifically for the social media−enabled physician? One clear method is by using social media platforms to promote new and upcoming activities and share recent data releases. Sites such as LinkedIn are particularly useful for these social media engagements, as physicians are typically engaging on a professional level.

Another way to engage physicians on social media is to create content specifically for social media platforms. This may be as simple as taking short video clips from a larger activity and sharing them with brief commentary on a social media platform like Twitter. Physicians view the video and commentary, and are directed to the full activity for more information. Another strategy is to have a regularly recurring content series that is presented on social media, such as a Virtual Journal Club. Each week, an article is presented for discussion, along with brief videos of experts discussing and explaining the articles. Physicians who follow along can reply and offer their own interpretation and commentary, and engage with their colleagues in the comments. This interactive, collaborative form of learning improves the uptake of new information, and the regularly recurring format ensures an audience of returning learners who are ready to engage. According to Terry Kind, MD, MPH,, from George Washington University, “The interactivity [of social media] allows individual learners to share ideas and questions, and they can even share goals to have accountability partners in the learning and practice improvement process. Social media can break down barriers so that students and educators can connect and interact more easily.”

Given the positive benefit social media can have on learning, communication, and practice change, it is likely this growing technology will become an important component of IME. Now is the time to begin considering how your content can be adapted to the evolving world of social media to best engage learners in the future.

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