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Blogs and Wikis and Facebook - Oh My!
Social Media Use in Medical Education: A Systematic Review. Cheston C et al. Academic Medicine 2013; 88: 893-901.
Reviewed by Sharon Sholiton


What were the study questions?
How have interventions using social media tools affected 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?

How was the study done?
The authors conducted a systematic literature search on social media use in medical education. Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria. Each was assessed using the Medical Education Research Quality Instrument (MERSQI), on a scale of 5-18, higher scores indicating higher quality.

What were the results?
Studies involving UME students were most common (n=11, 79%) The most commonly employed tool was the blog, (n=10, 71&337;), followed by the wiki (n=3, 21%). Primary aims were to promote empathy, reflection, or professionalism (n=5, 36%), enhance clinical skills (n=7, 50%), or increase interest in a field (n=2, 14%). The average MERSQI score was 8.89 (SD=3.39, range 5-15.5). Most studies used a single group cross-sectional or posttest only design (n=9, 64%). Only one study was a RCT.

Challenges identified included technical difficulties for both students and faculty facilitators and variable level of learner participation (n=6, 43%). Happily, no studies reported any breech of professionalism or compromised patient confidentiality. Benefits identified included the promotion of active learning, demonstrated by high learner engagement (n=10, 71%), and increased feedback (n=8, 57%), as well as flexibility across both time and geographic distance.

What are the implications of these findings?
Little high quality literature assesses the use of social media in medical education. UME students are receptive to social media used for educational purposes, and studies demonstrate an array of positive results regarding learner satisfaction, knowledge, and attitudes. Educators should consider the opportunities afforded by social media to facilitate active learning when designing and implementing curriculum.

Editor's Note: There is no question that social media tools will play a larger role in medical education as the current crop of students who grew up with them become educators. This exhaustive study shows that although these tools show a lot of promise, but there ain%t a lot of data yet. (JG)

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