Social media is a hot topic in pharma right now – and not just its impact on patient advocacy and awareness. Increasingly, digital media has become a prime location for physician discussions and continuing medical education (CME). While some may see social media as simply a landscape for shallow, juvenile gossip, the following examples show the incredible impact of two social media platforms: a YouTube video and a Twitter hashtag.
In 2012, Life in the Fast Lane, an organization dedicated to bringing medical learning to the digital stage, established FOAM (Free Open Access Meducation): an ideological revolution to encourage physician-to-physician dialogue. Because #FOAM is already taken, healthcare professionals can tweet #FOAMed to open scientific discussions.
Now, don’t let the hashtag fool you: This is more than a social media trend. As the authors of Life in the Fast Lane profess, #FOAMed is a call to arms to expand medical conversations and education to healthcare professionals around the world. Twitter discussions include everything from helping in diagnosis to catching up on the latest research and ethical discussions about medical errors. These conversations can expand education to individuals who may not have access to the latest medical journals or conferences so that everyone has “free open access” to medical education. As the motto of the movement explains, “FOAM is the concept, #FOAMed the conversation.”
A similar revolution has taken place on YouTube. When respiratory specialist Tapas Mukherjee learned that more than half of the physicians at the hospital where he works did not know the newest guidelines for asthma, he decided to do something about it. Dr. Mukherjee created his “Breakfast at Glenfield” music video, which explains the new asthma guidelines to the tune of Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” With more than 58,000 views, this silly, melodramatic – and, at times, downright sassy – video has won the British Thoracic Society Prize for Innovation in Respiratory Education 2012 and the NHS Innovation Expo and Network Casebook II Prize 2013. Most importantly, this “musical medical education video,” as Dr. Mukherjee calls it, has spread knowledge of the new asthma guidelines, thereby increasing physician education and patient safety.
Patients aren’t the only ones who like to learn about medicine in social media. As “Breakfast at Glenfield” and #FOAMed have shown, physicians can use social media to engage in medical education in fun, innovative ways. While some curmudgeonly physicians may oppose these unorthodox methods, most would agree: it sure beats reading a textbook or sitting through a lecture.