Monday, June 10, 2013

Social Media in Medical Education

A little late, but here's a post on my Social Media in Medical Education project. 

As part of my Leadership course, we had to complete a scholarly project. I chose to look into social media use by our students at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine.When I presented the work at our graduation, I got a few puzzled looks.

What does social media, or "Facebook" have to do with medical school, medicine, healthcare etc?
This was the question that some of my colleagues asked. This was the question that I presume many of my colleagues were thinking.

To me, it's pretty simple.

As physicians (and all healthcare providers) one of our fundamental mandates is to connect with people. It is this deep connection between physician and patient, and the success of this connection that determines healthcare outcomes.

Civilization has progressed because of advances in "connections." The written word, the printing press, the telephone, television, the world wide web. They were all advances in communication that has improved how   people connect to one another. In the history of mankind, no form of communication and connection has progressed faster than social media. Billions of people have connected through social media in less than a decade.There is something about social media that appeals to the modern human being. It simply works.

As physicians, where connecting with our patients means everything, how can we possibly ignore social media?

I certainly can't ignore it. So I've decided to begin a fact finding mission by surveying our medical students to gauge their opinion on social media. I primarily focused on social media and its potential applications to medical education

The process began by formulating a 10 question survey. I had to keep it short and sweet. Our students have very little time to spare, and are often inundated with survey requests.

I used Qualtrics (for the 1st time!) to create and distribute the survey. A tip, for anyone thinking of doing a survey study. Familiarize yourself with the software before sending it!I made a mistake, that only allowed 1 person to complete the survey. Subsequent people were not able to. I had to resend the survey to everyone!
Furthermore, don't ever send a survey on April 1st. If it fails (like mine ) people will think it's an April fools joke!

We have 530 students and I got about a 10% response rate. I've been told this isn't terrible, though more would've been nice. The nice thing is, we had almost equal distribution of 1st to 4th year students.

Here are some key facts I discovered

100% use Wikipedia
94% use YouTube
81% use Facebook
less than 25% use LinkedIn, Twitter.

I think the value of Wikipedia and YouTube as education tools is quite obvious.
LinkedIn as a professional networking tool is a missed opportunity.
Twitter as multifaceted educational and networking tool is also a missed opportunity.

86% of the students use "Social media" for personal reasons atleast 2-3 times a week. Not a surpise. But here's what suprised me
73% use "social media"  2-3 times a week for educational or professional reasons.

This tells me, students are actively on social media, learning and participating independently. We as educators need to meet them out there and take advantage of their enthusiasm.

Next up, I looked at their opinions on some of the perceived advantages of social media in education.
I was surprised at how only half of the students felt "learning could be fun" and "more interactive." My impression was, students crave a more enjoyable interactive experience.

Next I looked at opinions on its disadvantages or "concerns."
Not surprisingly, "Security" is a common concern. In an era, where we are constantly worried about privacy and professionalism of our trainees on social media, their concern on this matter is reassuring.

More than half the students cited how it would not help them do better on exams. Not surprising, but this hints at the underlying culture of our current medical school system. This is a culture that demands our students maximize their grades and exam scores above other skills. This is a whole topic of discussion onto itself

The most interesting analysis came from comparing different demographics of our students.
Although the sample size was small, the results were statistically significant

3rd and 4th year clinical students were more likely to think learning using social media would be fun. I interpret this as pre-clinical students being bogged down in books and exams, with very little time for "fun" educational activities. The pre-clinical 1st and 2nd years also thought social medial could potentially make the quality of their education worse. So there definitely was a lot of skepticism from our pre-clinical students.

Interestingly, we noted differences between male and female students.
Female students felt social media encourages collaboration, team work and could potentially increase interaction between students.
Male students felt social media would not be as effective as current learning methods and has the potential to make their education worse. This also indicates significant skepticism from our male students.

Despite the mixed results, this was a rewarding, fun and successful research project. My goal was to establish some sort of opinion baseline on social media's applicability to medical education. The results indicate there are great opportunities but also significant concerns and skepticism.

Ultimately, I think there is a definite trend towards different ways to connect with our patients and students. Social media is the obvious choice based on its track record in the general public. Now it's about us as healthcare providers, and educators to continue to push the boundaries of our creativity and comfort levels to find new innovative ways to deliver our expertise.


At November 15, 2013 at 11:11 AM , Blogger The Hummingbee said...

Hi, I'm a final year med student in the UK, interested in medical education myself.

I think you raise very interesting points and there are definitely untapped resources out there as you say. I recently signed up to "Path bites" where I receive an email a day to do with pathology. Since I check my emails constantly, this is a great way to learn.

I've noticed also that many medical educational bodies e.g. in the UK we have ASME and the Academy of Medical Educators, have started their own Twitter accounts to disseminate information.

The future looks exciting..!


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