Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 6.15.28 PMWhether you realize it or not, the use of social media (i.e. Facebook, twitter, and blogs) has found its way into the world of medical students, residents, physicians, and medical educators all around the world. The use of these resources has several advantages versus in-person/print educational tool:

  • Overcomes physical or temporal barriers
  • Provides searchable content
  • Encourages interactivity

What are the most common social media tools used, opportunities, and challenges in medical education? 1

What they did:

  • Systematic literature review of 14 studies

Questions asked:

  • Do social media tools affected outcomes of satisfaction, knowledge, attitudes, and skills for physicians and physicians-in-training?
  • What challenges and opportunities specific to social media have educators encountered in implementing these interventions?


  • Most common social media tools used:
    • Blogs 71%
    • Wikis 21%
    • Twitter 14%
    • Facebook 14%
  • Most common social media aims:
    • Enhance clinical skills or knowledge 50%
    • Promote empathy, reflection, or professionalism 36%
    • Increase interest in a field 14%
  • Most commonly cited opportunities:
    • Active learning 71%
    • More feedback 57%
    • Enhanced collaboration 36%
    • Professional development 36%
    • Career advancement/networking 21%
    • Supportive learning communities 14%
  • Most commonly cited challenges:
    • Technical issues 43%
    • Variable learner participation 43%
    • Privacy/security concerns 29%


  • Only one randomized controlled trial reviewed
  • No comparison group in evaluation of satisfaction
  • Studies included were too heterogeneous to perform sensitivity, subgroup or meta-analyses


  • Social media use in medical education is an emerging field of scholarship that merits further investigation.

How can social media impact a conference? 2

What they did:

  • Documented the use of social media at The International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM) 2012
  • Determine the presence and activity of speakers on social media platforms
  • Use of Twitter by attendees and non-attendees

Primary Objective:

  • Report the presence and use of social media


  • 212 speakers:
    • 41.5% use Linkedin
    • 15.6% use Twitter
    • 9.4% use a website/blog
    • <1% use Google Plus
  • 4,500 tweets during conference:
    • >400 people produced tweets, but only 34% were physically present at the conference
    • 74.4% of the tweets were related to the clinical and research material presented at the conference


  • Difficult to determine the significance and impact of Twitter on changing clinician practice patterns


  • A large number of original tweets regarding clinical material at the conference were produced, with a very large portion coming from non-attendees.


These three publications demonstrate that social media is here to stay in Medicine and medical education. Twitter especially has grown in popularity. Overall social media has an incredible potential to enhance and engage active learning among physicians and physicians-in-training. The next step now is to focus future research on outcomes (i.e. change in practice patterns) to help validate this technology.

Cheston C, Flickinger T, Chisolm M. Social media use in medical education: a systematic review. Acad Med. 2013;88(6):893-901. [PubMed]
Neill A, Cronin J, Brannigan D, O’Sullivan R, Cadogan M. The impact of social media on a major international emergency medicine conference. Emerg Med J. 2014;31(5):401-404. [PubMed]
Salim Rezaie, MD

Salim Rezaie, MD

ALiEM Associate Editor Clinical Assistant Professor of EM and IM University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Founder, Editor, Author of R.E.B.E.L. EM and REBEL Reviews