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The Use of Social Media in Graduate Medical Education: A Systematic Review

Sterling, Madeline MD, MPH; Leung, Peggy MD; Wright, Drew MS, MLS; Bishop, Tara F. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001617

Purpose Despite the growing presence of social media in graduate medical education (GME), few studies have attempted to characterize their effect on residents and their training. The authors conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature to understand the effect of social media on resident (1) education, (2) recruitment, and (3) professionalism.

Method The authors identified English-language peer-reviewed articles published through November 2015 using Medline, Embase, Cochrane, PubMed, Scopus, and ERIC. They extracted and synthesized data from articles that met inclusion criteria. They assessed study quality for quantitative and qualitative studies through, respectively, the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument and the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Studies.

Results Twenty-nine studies met inclusion criteria. Thirteen (44.8%) pertained to residency education. Twitter, podcasts, and blogs were frequently used to engage learners and enhance education. YouTube and wikis were more commonly used to teach technical skills and promote self-efficacy. Six studies (20.7%) pertained to the recruitment process; these suggest that GME programs are transitioning information to social media to attract applicants. Ten studies (34.5%) pertained to resident professionalism. Most were exploratory, highlighting patient and resident privacy, particularly with respect to Facebook. Four of these studies surveyed residents about their social network behavior with respect to their patients, while the rest explored how program directors use it to monitor residents’ unprofessional online behavior.

Conclusions The effect of social media platforms on residency education, recruitment, and professionalism is mixed, and the quality of existing studies is modest at best.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

M. Sterling is fellow, Department of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.

P. Leung is resident, Department of Medicine, New York Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.

D. Wright is librarian, Samuel J. Wood Library & C. V. Starr Biomedical Information Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.

T.F. Bishop is associate professor, Division of Healthcare Policy and Economics, Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, New York.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Funding/Support: M. Sterling is supported by T32HS000066 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. T.F. Bishop is supported by a National Institute on Aging Career Development Award (K23AG043499) and by funds provided as Nanette Laitman Clinical Scholar in Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the National Institutes of Health.

Previous presentations: The content in this paper was presented at the national Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) meeting in Hollywood, Florida, in May of 2016 in the Scientific poster session.

Correspondence should be addressed to Madeline Sterling, Weill Cornell Medical College, 1300 York Ave., PO Box 46, New York, NY 10065; telephone: (646) 962-5029; e-mail:; Twitter: @mad_sters.

© 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges