The Fall of FOAM

Fork in Road Disappearance of FOAM blog podcast

The landscape of emergency medicine and critical care (EM/CC) blogs and podcasts has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. The number of free, open-access EM/CC blogs and podcasts has plummeted. As reported by Lin and colleagues in JMIR Education (2022), these sites decreased in number from 183 in 2014 to just 109 this year– a drop of 40.1% [1].

via GIPHY

This comes after a period of rapid growth of these educational resources in the late 2000’s [2], with expectations that new sites would continue to come online. It is unclear when the combined number of EM/CC blogs and podcasts peaked, or how recently it declined.

Why do we care in these declining numbers?

The FOAM (free open-access medical education) movement has become an important component of EM curricula at many training programs. Online learning resources such as medical blogs and podcasts have all but replaced traditional textbooks, and research suggests that some trainees use these products as their primary study materials [3]. Therefore, the observed decrease in FOAM sites is alarming, as training programs and trainees have come to rely on their availability.

Featured paper

In our JMIR Medical Education paper, Lin et al. sought to identify active EM/CC blogs and podcasts during a 2-week period in May 2022. The authors found a total of 50 blogs, 25 podcasts, and 34 blogs + podcasts (n=109). The age of these FOAM sites ranged from 1-18 years and most were physician-led. Just over half had leadership teams of 5 or more individuals. Support was identified for approximately 75% of the sites and included advertisements, institutional sponsorship, or the sale of goods and services (though site access remained free).

The Christensen Theory of Disruptive Innovation may explain the recent decline in EM/CC blogs and podcasts. Using this lens, FOAM sites are considered ‘disruptors’ in medical education that quickly gained market share previously dominated by ‘incumbents’ such as medical textbooks, journals, and in-person conferences. Rather than cede their influence, incumbent organizations co-opted the disruptive innovation itself, in this case leveraging their assets to create their own online learning resources, blogs, and podcasts. As these incumbent offerings grew, there was less need for new, independent FOAM sites. Concurrently, FOAM sites continue to generate little-to-no revenue and academic value for the creators, making it difficult for the disruptors to challenge the market dominance of incumbents or to create its own unique, sustainable market space. We theorize that older sites likely succumbed to these financial and academic opportunity costs as well as high user expectations for design and functionality.

What is the future of FOAM?

Though EM/CC blogs and podcasts changed the landscape of medical education in fundamental ways, they will likely not endure as independent entities without new business models for sustainability. A recent study suggests that the costs of FOAM might be offset by advertising or other revenues [4]. Based on our observations of current practices on existing FOAM sites, this might include at least incorporating any/all of the following:

  1. Inserting advertisements
  2. Creating products for sale such as books, courses, swag, or consulting services
  3. Developing partnerships
  4. Soliciting for donations

In the meantime, we posit one of 3 potential futures of new and existing blogs and podcasts: hybridization, disappearance, and new-market independence.

future of foam christensen

  1. Hybridization strategy: Incumbents partner with or create their own blogs/podcasts. This loss of independence, which was part of the initial appeal of FOAM grassroots efforts, is traded for more stability and infrastructure. Already 44% of EM blogs are officially affiliated with a sponsoring institution.
  2. Continued disappearance of sites: Progressively fewer independent, free blogs/podcasts because of site demise, merging of sites, or conversion to paid subscription model
  3. Independent sustainability: Growth of independent, free blogs/podcasts as its own new-market endeavor, separate from the incumbent market space, only achievable with better return on investments (academically and financially) for bloggers/podcasters. Once FOAM efforts are no longer a major opportunity cost, educators may even be able to pivot their careers towards this primarily, rather than as a side project.

It remains to be seen whether FOAM can withstand market and academic pressures or whether it is destined to be assimilated by better-resourced incumbent organizations.

What is the future of ALiEM?

We hope to stick around and hope the rest of the FOAM community will evolve with us.

Comments?

Join the interesting discussion on Twitter. We are thrilled to bring this conversation to the forefront.

https://twitter.com/M_Lin/status/1582021848958500864?s=20&t=nBcJtrRvgML2QMRNnZkwwA

References

  1. Lin M, Phipps M, Yilmaz Y, Nash CJ, Gisondi MA, Chan TM. A Fork in the Road: Mapping the Paths of Emergency Medicine and Critical Care Blogs and Podcasts. JMIR Medical Education. 2022 (preprint available: https://doi.org/10.2196/39946)
  2. Cadogan M, Thoma B, Chan TM, Lin M. Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM): The rise of emergency medicine and critical care blogs and podcasts (2002-2013). Emerg Med J. 2014;31(e1):e76-e77. doi:10.1136/emermed-2013-203502
  3. Branzetti J, Commissaris C, Croteau C, et al. The Best Laid Plans? A Qualitative Investigation of How Resident Physicians Plan Their Learning [published online ahead of print, 2022 May 24]. Acad Med. 2022; doi:10.1097/ACM.0000000000004751
  4. Lee M, Hamilton D, Chan TM. Cost of free open-access medical education (FOAM): An economic analysis of the top 20 FOAM sites. AEM Educ Train. 2022;6(5):e10795. Published 2022 Sep 9. doi:10.1002/aet2.10795

Need your help: A master list of free EM and Critical Care blog and podcast sites

Calling all who read or listen to emergency medicine/critical care (EM/CC) blogs or podcasts. In 2014, we helped to publish the master inventory of free open-access medical education (FOAMed) resources spanning the period of 2002-2013 [1]. In that publication, we demonstrated an exponential rise of both blogs and podcasts with 141 blogs and 42 podcasts (total 183 sites). In 2019, the Life in the Fast Lane (LITFL) team identified 251 active sites. But where are we at now?

Why create an EM/CC master list of sites?

Most of the time, we encounter new resources by word-of-mouth or through Google search engines. There are, however, so many more quality sites that are available for teaching and learning. We aim to find them all. Are the numbers like 50 or more like 500? So far, we have reviewed the 2019 LITFL list and identified 119 and 9 still-active blog and podcast sites, respectively. But we likely have missed some, especially those sites launched after 2019.

Why the rush on updating the master list now?

Since 2014, we have prided ourselves in running the Approved Instructional Resources (AIR) Series, which identifies quality blog posts and podcast episodes, specifically to help residency programs award asynchronous learning credit to their residents [2]. Posts and episodes are identified from the top 50 sites, based on our validated Social Media Index (SMI) score [3] and are selected from a modified version of the 2019 LITFL list. The SMI formula incorporates the Alexa rank, which unfortunately just retired on May 1, 2022. So we are working towards an updated SMI score, using Ahref’s Domain Rating as well as new platform followerships that includes not only Twitter and Facebook but also Pinterest, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Call to action: What sites did we miss?

We want to get as comprehensive a list as possible. If you don’t see a blog or podcast on these lists, fill out the Google form below! Thank you for your help.

Blogs

Podcasts

Submission Form

References

  1. Cadogan M, Thoma B, Chan TM, Lin M. Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM): the rise of emergency medicine and critical care blogs and podcasts (2002-2013). Emerg Med J. 2014;31(e1):e76-e77. doi:10.1136/emermed-2013-203502. PMID 24554447
  2. Lin M, Joshi N, Grock A, et al. Approved Instructional Resources Series: A National Initiative to Identify Quality Emergency Medicine Blog and Podcast Content for Resident Education. J Grad Med Educ. 2016;8(2):219-225. doi:10.4300/JGME-D-15-00388.1. PMID 27168891
  3. Thoma B, Sanders JL, Lin M, Paterson QS, Steeg J, Chan TM. The social media index: measuring the impact of emergency medicine and critical care websites. West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(2):242-249. doi:10.5811/westjem.2015.1.24860. PMID 25834664
By |2022-05-03T17:04:12-07:00May 4, 2022|Academic, Social Media & Tech|

Holiday Gift Guide for ALiEM Readers: Top 5 Favorite Tech Tools

Technology continues to integrate with our life — for better and worse. Our team felt that the following 5 tech tools added value and joy to our lives, and so we are sharing with you. These also make great gifts for the emergency physician or healthcare provider in your life this holiday season.

holiday tech tools blinkist

Blinkist is a professional book summary subscription service that condenses key points from non-fiction books into 15-minute reads. This is an efficient way to catch with all those books that you have been putting off.

holiday tech tools headspace app

The Headspace app is one of the frequently used mindfulness app in the world. Working in Emergency Medicine was already extremely stressful before the pandemic began. Being more intentional about self-care is as critical as ever for our personal and professional well-being.

holiday tech tools headphones

Noise-cancelling headphones, such as the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Noise Canceling Headphones are essential, especially if need some quality time working alone or just need some “me time”. With potentially many people in our house conducting virtual meetings, doing work, and performing chores, this over-the-ear headphone does the trick.

holiday tech tools speaker

The Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker is a compact, quality wireless speaker that you can take with you to your favorite “office” (such as your backyard), on your night shift to boost team morale, or play in the background for your patients as you are suturing their lacerations.

holiday tech tools blinkist camo

Reincubate’s Camo is a software that turns your iPhone into your computer’s webcam. Without needing to buy fancy videocamera equipment, you can upgrade your videoconferencing and video recordings by using your iPhone’s high-resolution camera. While the free version provides 720p video resolution, Camo Pro allows for 1080p resolution, portrait mode, and manual control of the camera features. Note: Nonprofits and educators can contact them for a discount off of the $39.99 annual subscription.

Check out our other holiday gift lists:

Disclosure: Although we do not have an official partnership with Amazon, we belong to their Amazon Affiliates program which allows us to be paid a few pennies with books purchased from our links.

By |2021-11-17T15:14:01-08:00Nov 19, 2021|Academic, Social Media & Tech|

Reading from the Silver Linings Playbook: The ALiEM Connect Project

ALiEM Connect graduation

It feels like yesterday that we were sheltered-in-place, staring at our computers, wondering, “So now what?” 

As COVID-19 paused all in-person educational sessions, the early morning residency conference we used to begrudgingly join quickly became something that we profoundly missed. While we can now be “present” while wearing sweatpants and a button-down shirt, we miss the human connection. Many of us would gladly even suffer through traffic just to be a part of this morning conference tradition.

As educators and innovators, we know what a disruptive force the COVID-19 pandemic has been to the medical community. It has strained our medical and healthcare systems and has irrevocably altered our day-to-day lives. Without a doubt, the pandemic also changed how we delivered educational content to our learners over the past year.

Scholars have written about how likely this pandemic will likely precipitate the much-needed digital transformation of healthcare and health professions education that many of us have expected and hoped for. But while some of these innovations are born out of necessity, they may also inadvertently isolate us from the experiential aspects of education and human interaction that provide meaning to our work. For the ALiEM team, we cherish the opportunity to be part of some of these significant innovative and positive “disruptions,” further aligning our goal of creating an impactful and fulfilling academic life in emergency medicine. 

The Backstory

As a remote team working across continents, the ALiEM team has thrived on digital connection for over a decade. With excellent collaborators and volunteers representing different parts of the world, our daily operations require us to stay connected and work asynchronously to achieve our goals and deliverables. When the lockdowns hit, we leveraged its impact on physical distancing and leaned into connecting with each other even more! They say “chance favors the prepared mind,” and there we were, already on Slack and yearning for the opportunity to harness the power of teamwork using our shared passions, individual creative strengths, and enthusiastic and supportive emojis. There were moments of creating, moments of celebration, and moments of simply being with each other – often through an evening #WifiAndWine.

By the Ides of March 2020, an auspicious time indeed, we knew we were at a turning point. Our friends and work families had been working on the front lines combating the pandemic locally, gathering PPE, and studying the effects of a virus we knew next to nothing about. New information was coming in daily, and the signal-to-noise ratio was low. In some ways, to escape the disruptions going on all around us, we banded together to focus our unique energies toward creating something as novel as the virus itself in the realm of free open-access medical education.

At a time where everyone was feeling alone, we asked ourselves how we could support the joy of learning from and with each other? In truly whirlwind fashion, the first ALiEM Connect conference went from idea to execution in less than 2 weeks, a record-breaking time even for ALiEM. Thank especially to the American Board of Emergency Medicine for sponsoring these events.

We recently made it to the semi-finals at the CORD/ACEP Innovator of the Year competition, where we shared the below video capturing the fun, collaboration, and innovative outcome of our efforts. Oh, and the familiar ratatat of Slack.

Making this a Multiple Win

The secret sauce of the ALiEM team is that we have a diverse group of people, each of whom brings their own perspective and that we are able to share with one another liberally. Dr. Michelle Lin encouraged an environment that is psychologically safe and supportive since the inception of the ALiEM enterprise. It is out of this space that our diverse team was able to successfully bring a massively successful project to fruition amid a global pandemic. What started as a small brainstorming session blossomed into ALiEM Connect – 3 distinct remote conferences featuring nationally-recognized educators and thought leaders enjoyed by residents across the country.

It’s difficult to express as a linear narrative, but looking back, it seems as though our team divided into unique roles without a second thought. Just like a production company, we had the front and back of the house. Those in the front made sure to help get people in the seats to watch; stage managers and coordinators ensured that every part of each of the ALiEM Connect experiences was phenomenally smooth. We had talented individuals who acted as hosts and speakers to ensure that each of these experiences was top-notch and engaging. In the back, Drs. Mary Haas, Yusuf Yilmaz, and Teresa Chan sprung quickly into action to create a program evaluation strategy for our ALiEM Connect program, including a formal institutional review board exemption! All the while, testing and vetting platforms and methods to distribute the material were ongoing. We built upon each technological skill, learned new platforms, and trialed different features. We had barely decided on an open, free, and accessible platform (which was, in fact, no individual platform but an amalgamation of many!) before sending out the invites.

But the fun didn’t stop there! We’re the “academic” life in emergency medicine! How could we not also share our results with the traditional academic community? Within days of finishing our first ALiEM Connect experience, our program evaluation team generated the scaffolding of a manuscript to put together our thoughts and analyze the evaluation data collected. We harnessed the power of metrics from social media platforms (YouTube, Slack, Twitter), website analytics, and end-user experiences. Harnessing all of these analytics and communicating the right message with our academic medicine community was important to inform and help others to replicate similar approaches to their residents. Our team used ready to use metrics which came from YouTube analytics. But we did not stop there as we needed more reports of how the residents and programs interacted during the Connect events in the backchannel, Slack. We developed Python supported software to export and analyze all the messages happening in separate channels. We developed a “Emoji Cloud” to see how the reactions happened, and closely analyzed the messages during the event.

Given the true novelty of the experience, we figured we might as well shoot for the moon, as they say, by submitting our innovation description paper to Academic Medicine. After all, even if they didn’t accept it, we might get some constructive reviews, to say the least. As innovators, we are comfortable with the possibility of failure. We understand the value of the saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and were prepared to accept “no” as an answer. With that, we took a calculated risk, making use of the same collaborative strategy to craft a manuscript, and clicked submit.

…And we’re glad we took that shot! We are excited to share that what we sent was indeed accepted and express our gratitude for the chance to share our low-cost approach to a large-scale, nationwide residency conference! You may read the Published Ahead-of-Print version of our paper.

Moral of the story…

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the moral of the story here? Of course, with enough academics and experts, yeah, you got a paper published. Cool…” But the papers aren’t the point. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, more papers have been published than ever before – more research is being done, and our whole field is changing. The point is… this is how we got to ENJOY the academic life during a pandemic! We made lemonade (and several other desserts!) out of the lemons we were handed. New knowledge comes from thinking big and trying new things. Turns out, sometimes you also have to write about those experiences and share them with others.

As emergency physicians, we know we’re good in a crisis. But this experience reminded us that by surrounding ourselves with amazing people, we could get a surprising amount of work done (at record speed) and have a fantastically memorable time along the way. The moral of this story is that when you bring great people together and give them a chance to get to know each other, magic happens. ALiEM Connect happens. And we impact more people than we can possibly meet at the touch of our keyboards. We are so grateful for the chance to work alongside all the wonderful people at each of our institutions every day. Still, also, we are indebted to those who are our digital family. Thank you to all of you who make initiatives like ALiEM Connect possible. Academic life in emergency medicine is all about bringing a great team together.

So is the ALiEM team.

Little Big Med Podcast: Gender Equity in Medicine

It’s time to talk about gender equity in medicine. Significant gender disparities exist in both healthcare institutions and professional societies. These disparities persist even in fields that are predominantly female, such as pediatrics. In fact, although women comprise 72.3% of active pediatricians, only 27.5% of pediatric department chairs across US medical schools are women. Why does this disparity exist? What can we do to address it? In this episode of the Little Big Med podcast, host Dr. Jason Woods discusses these questions with Dr. Nancy Spector, Professor of Pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine and Executive Director of the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program.

(more…)

All-EM Residency Graduation Extravaganza: Save the Date

all-EM residency graduation emergency medicine speakers

We invite all of you to join the first-ever all-EM residency graduation event to celebrate the #EMClassof2020 who are embarking on their professional careers in an especially tumultuous time in history. Although this online event cannot replace the experience of an in-person departmental event, we hope that we can all take a collective pause to realize how connected we are in EM and even find some joy in these dark times. As a testament to this momentous “leveling-up” event, world-class speakers, Dr. Esther Choo, Dr. Mel Herbert, and Dr. Amal Mattu will headline a series of well-wishes and inspirational words. We have pulled out all the stops and spared no expense to honor YOU, the future of EM!

(more…)

By |2020-06-08T16:15:47-07:00Jun 5, 2020|Academic, Social Media & Tech|

Welcoming PECARN to Twitter

twitter PECARNOur organization has always been a champion and fan of the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) research collaborative. We jointly worked on designing their official Head Injury Decision Tool found printed in various emergency departments around the country, featured several PECARN authors on our ALiEM podcast, and provide summaries of their 147-and-growing list of publications in our P3 app. So it follows that we are incredibly honored and thrilled to announce our Twitter collaboration. We will be helping to run their Twitter account. Join @PECARNteam and keep current on their growing list of publications, their clinical take-home points, and even insights from the authors themselves.

(more…)

By |2020-04-26T16:37:58-07:00May 1, 2020|Pediatrics, Social Media & Tech|
Go to Top