Advances in social media has brought its users many conveniences in information exchange. Medical education, particularly emergency medical education, has taken advantage of social media in their education programs, in the free open access meducation (FOAM) movement.

In the past we’ve written about 11 free FOAM resources for health providers.

Not only do these new education options provide students with interactive and distant learning opportunities, students can now also view and review content anywhere, anytime. However, challenges remain, making some institutions hesitant to support the use of social media in medical education.

Recognizing these challenges, this paper provides some guidelines on how to use social media for emergency medical residency education. The committee for these guidelines included directors, educators, and contributors from current medical programs. The Council of Residency Directors (CORD) approved these guidelines after four rounds of discussion. Of special note is the importance of having institutional support to create a strong social media presence and proper integration into the program.

Here are the key points to their guidelines:

  1. Gain institutional support for social media to be included in the program
  2. Develop policies, guidelines, and leadership in the social media modalities
  3. Integrate social media modalities into the medical education program
  4. Post for educational purposes only
  5. Disclose affiliation with institution/program
  6. Manage sponsored social media content to ensure proper citation and accreditation
  7. Stay professional by respecting patient privacy and disclosing potential conflicts of interest

In addition to these guidelines, the authors propose specific suggestions on how to tackle remaining challenges.

Challenges Suggestions
  • involve IT, legal, and public relations departments
  • get institutional funding
  • tell faculty and students how to use the social media modalities
  • endorse the new social media modalities
  • ensure quality assurance
  • make it rewarding (e.g., establishment of international reputation)
  • address technological barriers, especially for older faculty
  • maintain privacy and professionalism

These guidelines provide a good basis for medical education programs that are still struggling to use social media and unconventional education tools to supplement their programs. The success of FOAM can be seen by its increase in popularity over the last decade.