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B.C. docs connect through social media

By Eric MacKenzie

FOTOLIA

FOTOLIA

Social media isn’t likely to ever fully replace the model of peer-reviewed journals when it comes to doctors continuing their professional education. But here in B.C., it’s playing an important role in how physicians share information.

An article co-authored by a resident and professors from UBC’s emergency medicine department, and published in this month’s BC Medical Journal, highlights how Facebook, Twitter, medical blogs and other networks have changed the way health professionals are interacting with each other and learning from the experiences of others.

“It’s not so much that we’re recommending that social media be the new form of continuing professional development, but it is a way to supplement and engage in a separate way from what already exists,” Dr. Ben Millar, a resident at the Royal Columbia Hospital who co-wrote the paper with Dr. Kendall Ho and Dr. Anna-Maria Carvalho, told 24 hours.

“It allows more cross-connectivity on a global scale (and) allows for faster discussion.”

It’s an approach the authors are helping to localize in B.C. Earlier this year, they helped launch the BC Emergency Medicine page on Facebook, which has had more than 100 physicians join in just a few weeks and is providing an active forum for discussion, the sharing of experiences in the field and up-to-date info.

That’s important, said Ho, because so much of a physician’s learning is done on a case-by-case basis.

“Having a community where we can discuss cases that we may not be familiar with, or sharing ideas on how to manage those cases throughout the province not only help us in our practice, but help with recruitment and retention of health professionals in different communities in B.C.,” said Ho.

The hope, according to Ho, is that more rigorous research can be done to examine the impacts and benefits of social media on B.C. health care. And as the next generation of physicians who are more experienced with social media enter the field, Millar said he expects the trend to continue to grow.

“It’s not the same as reading the textbooks,” said Millar, “but it can be a great supplement to all the other types of learning that we’re doing.”