There is no doubt in my mind that at least some of what I have learned through my training will turn out to be somewhere between “not quite right” to just flat out wrong.
For that reason, continuing education is a critical part of being a good clinician.
Traditional methods of staying up to date with medical knowledge include structured activities like attending conferences and unstructured activities like reading journals–both of which involve the unidirectional transfer of knowledge.
As medical schools shift to more collaborative models of training where students are encouraged to discuss and challenge what they are taught, one would expect that this type of learning may not be ideal for future generations of clinicians.
Fortunately, we are now seeing the emergence of tools that will help add a new dimension to continuing education; one where even a rural primary care physician can participate in thoughtful debate about the latest hypertension guidelines with far flung peers.
Here, we share some of the tools that we have encountered that will be part of transforming continuing education.
QuantiaMD describes itself as an online community for physicians. After joining, users get access to more traditional didactic content like video talks on medical topics. Much of these are aimed at covering best practices related to the topic. More importantly, though, much of the app is devoted to discussion groups that can be set up around user-generated topics, didactic content, or medical literature. QuantiaMD goes so far as to have an incentive system setup to drive engagement, with users getting Amazon gift cards on a points system.
Docphin, similar to Read, makes medical literature far more accessible on the mobile platform. For users with institutional affiliations in particular, it enables full-text access to medical literature from a wide range of journals. More relevant to this discussion, though, is the integration of social media functions. For example, the ability to see what others are reading by following trending articles creates a completely new way to find interesting and relevant information. The app also integrates discussion functionality tools to enable debate about particular articles.
Read by QxMD
Much like Docphin, Read enables on-the-go access to a wide range of medical journals. For users with access to institutional-based subscriptions, getting full-text versions of articles is incredibly easy. Read has also integrated a discussion feature that enables users to discuss and debate specific articles. The ability to share articles, especially through social media channels like Twitter, also helps Read integrate into the conversations happening in these forums.
Figure1 is a really interesting concept that we recently came across (review forthcoming); here users can share images of interesting physical findings with a user community. Whether it is in search of a second opinion or an important learning point, this app helps promote physical exam teaching. Of note, anyone can sign up – not just healthcare professionals. While the app includes a features such as built-in consent forms and the capability to automatically block facial images, the developers do note that it may run afoul of some institutional policies. That being said, there is real potential here to add an interesting dimension to continuing education.
The description of Doximity as a social network for physicians doesn’t quite do justice to what it really is. More than just a way for physicians to connect, Doximity aims to create a space for physicians to collaborate, debate, and otherwise engage with each other. Most pertinent here is the iRounds feature of Doximity which enables discussion around user-generated topics from the latest medical research to political topics. In particular, Doximity promotes the idea of the virtual second opinion – basically, physicians posting vexing cases for input from their peers.
This list is far from complete; rather, it’s meant to capture the idea that continuing education can be done differently and perhaps better. Tools like these that enable collaborative learning through debate and discussion can help make continuing education more than just reading an article or listening to a lecture. Given the trends in medical education, we can anticipate that tools like these will be increasingly important for future generations of clinicians.
Have other apps or tools you think fit here? Tell us about them in the comments below and we may add them to the post!