Quality Improvement Through Social Media: an initial look at the International Hernia Collaboration Facebook(tm) Group

Patricia C Chui, MD, Brian P Jacob, MD. Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYC.

Introduction:  The widespread accessibility to social media platforms, such as Facebook™, affords all of the stakeholders interested in optimizing patient outcomes within a specific surgical discipline the extraordinary opportunity to participate in the rapid global exchange of education and ideas. Groups that promote the collaboration between professionals-to-professionals, professionals-to-patients, professionals-to-students, and professionals-to-industry partners are equally effective in this process. Made up of surgeons, healthcare providers, and vetted medical device industry partners, The International Hernia Collaboration Facebook™ Group is a new example of a professional-to-professional-to-industry group where exchange of information is centered on the concept of improving patient outcomes. As its founders, we wanted to review the initial statistics and benefits surrounding its growth during the first 9 months of its use.

Results:  Since its inception in December 2012 with 9 members, the group has expanded to 302 members who have been individually vetted by the group’s board. Of these members, 102 are located outside of the United States and represent 36 individual countries, including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and Mauritius. 260 members are either surgeons or members of an academic institution (non-surgeon physicians, residents, and medical students), while 42 members work within industry. Of the nearly 200 different posts made to this forum since its creation, 40.9% of the posts have involved discussions about unique case presentations; 39.8% have sought technical expertise in some aspect of hernia repair; 10.2% have involved questions about different types of mesh and other materials used in hernia repair; and 7.8% discussed pain after hernia procedures. 27.3% of the posts used de-identified images, including CT scans and videos, and 100% of the posts are HIPAA compliant. Remarkably, the vast majority of the posts garnered a substantial number of responses from other members, ranging from 4 to 46 responses per post.

Conclusions:  Our initial review of The International Hernia Collaboration Facebook™ group demonstrates that social media can be used professionally as an extremely effective educational tool that provides rapid global collaboration with limitless possibilities, all designed to optimize patient care. Whether providing education to students and residents, market feedback to industry partners, tips and tricks to colleagues, referral or technical advice, or even second and third opinions, this group, and other groups like it, are revolutionizing the way the medical community collaborates. The growth of these types of surgical social media groups deserves careful and close attention in the coming years as they may very well replace the current methods used to disseminate and share information.

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