Purpose: To conduct a scoping review of the literature on social media use by health care professionals and trainees.
Method: The authors searched MEDLINE, CENTRAL, ERIC, PubMed, CINAHL Plus Full Text, Academic Search Complete, Alt Health Watch, Health Source, Communication and Mass Media Complete, Web of Knowledge, and ProQuest for studies published between 2000 and 2012. They included those reporting primary research on social media use by health care professionals or trainees. Two reviewers screened studies for eligibility; one reviewer extracted data and a second verified a 10% sample. They analyzed data descriptively to determine which social media tools were used, by whom, for what purposes, and how they were evaluated.
Results: The authors included 96 studies in their review. Discussion forums were the most commonly studied tools (43/96; 44.8%). Researchers more often studied social media in educational than practice settings. Of common specialties, administration, critical appraisal, and research appeared most often (11/96; 11.5%), followed by public health (9/96; 9.4%). The objective of most tools was to facilitate communication (59/96; 61.5%) or improve knowledge (41/96; 42.7%). Thirteen studies evaluated effectiveness (13.5%), and 41 (42.7%) used a cross-sectional design.
Conclusions: These findings provide a map of the current literature on social media use in health care, identify gaps in that literature, and provide direction for future research. Social media use is widespread, particularly in education settings. The versatility of these tools suggests their suitability for use in a wide range of professional activities. Studies of their effectiveness could inform future practice.