Currently submitted to: JMIR Medical Education
Date Submitted: Jun 28, 2019
Open Peer Review Period: Jul 2, 2019 - Aug 27, 2019
(currently open for review)
Not Just a Medical Student: Opportunities and Obstacles of Medical Education Through Social Media
Social media has drastically altered the way in which people communicate. No longer a matter of science fiction, global communication has evolved so much over the last decade, such that large quantities of public and private data can now be exchanged in minutes. The YouTube platform “Not Just a Medical Student” attempts to innovatively apply social media for the advancement of medical education . As a recently graduated doctor and current undergraduate medical student who regularly use social media for medical education, we would like to share our perspectives on the “Not Just a Medical Student” report and future advances within this field. Firstly, we agree with the authors that medical school curricula often lack teaching on leadership, teamwork and innovation. Despite saturated syllabi and an increasingly restrictive definition of “essential” learning, we believe that these elements are key to healthcare advancement and so thank Abbas et al. for highlighting their importance. At the same time, we acknowledge that medical students are unlikely to have a significant leadership or innovation roles at such a junior stage, and so suggest this teaching may have greater relevance during postgraduate years. On a broader scale, the benefits of educational social media are clear. Geographical and time differences are overcome, allowing students equal access to high quality teaching from healthcare experts, irrespective of location. Evidence also suggests that educational social media, in particular that which facilitates rapid communication, increases student satisfaction . However, application of social media to medical education is not without risks. Firstly, professionals and patients alike are susceptible to false information. Though rapid data-sharing is advantageous in many instances, false content can be shared just as fast and may remain online for a long time before correction or removal. If physicians go on to follow unmoderated, non-peer reviewed advice in their practice, this could harm the professional reputation of an individual or institution and more importantly harm public perception of medical practice, even dissuading patients from choosing truly beneficial treatments. Lack of regulation further allows spread of biased information, such as promotional material from pharmaceutical or device companies. The financial interests of these industries, declared or not, may lead to exaggerated or misleading claims being presented, further spreading misinformation. Lastly, discussion of real patient cases leaves physicians at risk of accidentally sharing personal information and so breaching confidentiality. Ultimately, this could harm the patient and may leave doctors liable for damages. Therefore, all content should first be checked for adherence to guidance from regulatory bodies before publication. Future work in this field should address the lack of quantitative evidence to support claims that social media is an effective educational tool . Presently used metrics such as the number of likes, shares and comments a post receives also require validation. Overall, we believe that social media is a powerful tool with potential to improve education and patient lives worldwide. We thank the “Not Just a Medical Student” team for producing such innovative content and look forward to seeing how this field progresses.
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