It has been established that social media for health information among consumers is not always accurate and can lead to misinformation, but for health professionals, medical education on social media can be a valuable resource. The hashtag #MedEd appeared more than a million times on the platform X (formerly Twitter) in 2022, and is used on other platforms for professionals, educators, and students to share, collaborate, and learn from the latest clinical research. #MedEd offers a dynamic platform for participants to share research results and discuss practical implications for patient care. In a recent JAMA Viewpoint article, Dr John Ayers and colleagues explored the potential for #MedEd to improve medical education and the health sciences.
One potential benefit of #MedEd is preventing the spread of misinformation by empowering users to be both educators and learners. Correction of inaccuracies in the literature can occur through instant peer review, as flawed conclusions can be called out and discussed in a transparent, public space, fostering a “culture of scrutiny and intellectual rigor.” It allows direct communication with original investigators and exponentially increases the speed and scale at which health professionals can react to research. If carefully harnessed, this can broaden the range of expertise in evaluation of scientific claims.
Social media also enables a multifaceted understanding of the literature through different experiences and perspectives. It allows learners from anywhere in the world to access leading experts and educators, eliminating barriers posed by location and lack of finances for traditional knowledge resources. For some global health professionals with limited access to academic medical institutions, social media may provide another outlet for continuing medical education. From a clinical perspective, #MedEd helps to foster collaboration and accelerate hypothesis generation, potentially contributing to advancements in the field.
To date, scientific attention and evaluation of social media in this context have been lacking. The authors suggest that a study of #MedEd can be used to develop social media strategies that enhance medical practice while also mitigating possible risks. If based in scientific evidence, #MedEd has the potential to improve the quality of care in an ever-changing knowledge landscape. Health organizations, medical schools, and member communities can support #MedEd by investing resources in it. Leveraging continued growth and rigorous scientific evaluation of social media interactions may unite health professionals across the globe in continuous learning and teaching. Conversely, failure to invest in #MedEd may result in continued proliferation of misinformation, including unverified or misleading interpretations of data.
Experts in evidence-based medicine are in the best position to help bend civil discussions toward facts by participating in social media platforms. Medical schools or journals engaging in civil discourse could also have a potential role in facilitating broad deliberation over scientific evidence by replying to commenters or sharing relevant (and accurate) content. Health organizations, medical schools, and member communities can foster #MedEd by encouraging participation in medical education on social media and rewarding engagement.
Clinicians can contribute to improvements in information via social media by participating in #MedEd platforms and discussions. Engaging with medical education in this way can provide access to evidence-based science and opportunities to collaborate with experts from around the world.