Social Media Use in Medical Education: A Systematic Review of Opportunities and Challenges



Christine C Cheston, Ba* Margaret Chisolm, Md*
Christine C Cheston, Ba*, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States
Tabor Flickinger, Md, Mph, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States
Margaret Chisolm, Md*, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, United States


Track: Research
Presentation Topic: Web 2.0-based medical education and learning
Presentation Type: Poster presentation
Submission Type: Single Presentation

Last modified: 2012-09-12
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Abstract


Background:
A number of innovative social media tools, including social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), blogs, and micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter), have emerged in the past decade. The use of social media is highly prevalent among younger physicians and growing rapidly among established physicians. Although these tools present opportunities to engage physicians-in-training and enhance lifelong learning, professionalism and patient privacy challenges exist when using social media in medical education.

Objectives:
This systematic review provides a summary of the opportunities and challenges of social media use in medical education.

Methods:
A search of the English-language, peer-reviewed literature published in nine medical databases (Medline, Cinahl, Eric, Embase, PsycInfo, Proquest, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Scopus) prior to September 12, 2011 was conducted using key terms such as medical education, undergraduate medical education, graduate medical education, continuing medical education, medical student education, and resident education in combination with variations of the following text words: social media, social network, Facebook, web 2.0, blog, Twitter, podcast and webcast. In addition, a hand-search of references from full-text reviewed studies was performed.

Two authors independently reviewed the titles and abstracts of all retrieved publications and selected relevant articles for full-text review. For each article that met inclusion criteria (user-generated and interactive social media use in medical education), themes regarding opportunities and challenges presented by the use of social media in medical education were extracted independently by two authors, any differences resolved by a third author, and final consensus achieved by discussion among all three authors.

Results:
The search identified 443 unique publications for full-text review of which 99 met final inclusion criteria. These represented three categories. Fifty-eight (59%) articles were commentaries that discussed social media risks and benefits. Twenty-seven (27%) were descriptive accounts that confirmed social media use is common in medicine and increasing over time. Fourteen (14%) were evaluative studies of educational interventions for physicians or physicians-in-training using social media.

Two predominant themes emerged from the overall literature regarding the opportunities that social media use presents in medical education: 1) social media’s shared process and content (74% of articles) and 2) social media’s accessible and customizable nature (40%). Other themes identified included social media’s popularity with learners (33%) and the potential for professional development and collaboration created by social media (29%). Three predominant themes emerged from the overall literature regarding the challenges that social media use presents in medical education: 1) breaches of professionalism (49% of articles), 2) user privacy (32%), and 3) information quality (27%). However, evaluative studies most commonly mentioned 1) technical problems (50%), 2) user privacy (21%), and 3) information quality (14%).

Conclusions:
There is evidence of a rapid expansion in academic articles on social media use in medical education. This is an emerging field of scholarship that merits further investigation. The use of social media in medical education presents many opportunities for medical educators to pursue innovative methods to enhance the training of physicians, but also a variety of challenges. Technical problems are associated with actual use of social media in medical education.




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