The benefits of using digital channels for medical education

To succeed as a medical professional, you must be a lifelong learner. Medicine is constantly evolving, so in no other field is it more pertinent to stay on top of trends and new information. In the business world, peers are not as likely to help others. They want to protect trade secrets and keep the edge on the competition. However, in the medical field there is a community willingness to collaborate to manage a complex patient, advocate for a segment of the population, enhance professional development and teach the next generation of healthcare providers.

In order for this collaboration to occur, efficient and effective communication is critical. The good news is that medical professionals no longer rely only on face-to-face meetings to securely share patient information or to collaborate with students and colleagues. Digital channels provide significant opportunities to medical professionals to enhance medical education, to offer proactive care to patients, and to assist peers with questions.

Social media and secure messaging are the primary digital communication methods that can positively impact the medical field from doctors, to students, to the patients themselves.

We recently spoke with Dr. Pradip Patel, Professor of Pediatrics and Faculty Academic Technology Liaison at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, to discuss his advocacy for using social media and secure messaging to learn, teach, and advocate as a medical educator:


1. Social Media: If you are professor of medicine, patients look to you for life altering advice and students depend on you for the most up to date information. Social media allows you to broadcast your content to your intended audience in real-time. Due to the fact that today’s students are digital natives, social media meets them where they are.

Pradip TwitterInstead of a professor getting all of his/her information within the silo of the organization, he/she can learn from and broadcast to a global audience through mediums like Twitter.

As Dr. Patel said, “In the connected health age, healthcare professionals talking to each other may be the most exciting innovation in the industry.”

Dr. Patel uses Twitter to curate content for his medical peers, and in fact it can bolster collaboration. For example, he found some of the coauthors of one of his recent publications, Twelve tips for using social media as a medical educator, via social media. These connections can help advance your career both as a professional and a student, and they are enhanced with social media.

In addition to expanding one’s professional network and curating content for medical peers, physicians can also curate content for specific patient segments. For example, a physician cannot efficiently communicate one at a time with 1,000 patients about asthma. However, if you can have those same 1,000 patients follow you on Twitter, you can curate content with the goal of keeping them up to date on asthma management and research.

Social media allows physicians to advocate, share credible information, correct misinformation and respond to myths/inaccuracies all with minimal time investment.

Clinical scientists can use social media to expand their professional network and to advance their academic productivity. Dr. Patel utilizes social media tools like ResearchGate and Doximity to share and advance research.

2. Secure & HIPAA Compliant Messaging: Obviously using a HIPAA compliant messaging platform is of utmost importance when dealing with Personal Health Information (PHI) of patients, but it is also important when handling medical information in general.

As stated earlier, staying up to date is critical in healthcare. One way medical educators used to stay up to date was by having “Journal Club meetings” where they read and discussed the most recent medical journal articles, similar to a book club. While some might still do this, it is increasingly difficult to get everyone in one room for an hour or two. With the proliferation of distance learning, many more peers and learners participate in remote sites regionally, nationally and even globally whereby digital synchronous or asynchronous learning may be more effective.

As we rely on remote critical conversations, we must ensure that they are secure and private. If you’re going to have conversations about personal health information or data being generated about research, the messaging must be encrypted and HIPAA compliant. That is where secure messaging applications can be an incredibly useful tool as a medical educator. People (particularly students) like messaging because you can have an instant conversation that works around your time instead of taking your time, and mobile is the perfect medium.

Dr. Patel uses secure messaging tools like Red e App to communicate with his medical students. He varies his content and timing based on his student’s schedules and coursework:

    1. He starts the week on Monday by sending students a short medical scenario with a mystery image and a few questions to which students can reply directly to Dr. Patel. After 24 hours, he will send out the correct diagnosis and a short synopsis of the presentation, workup, management, and a link for in-depth reading.
    2. Throughout the week he will curate articles from journals and mainstream media that he thinks will be useful to the students. He sends out summaries with links to the full journal article for future reference.
    3. Towards the end of the week he will send out a Radiology case with a radiograph, scenario, and questions.


There are different types of learners (auditory, visual and kinesthetic). Medical education provided via social media offers millennial students a unique opportunity to select their preference. Consistent communication via social media helps flip the classroom. Medical educators can send an article and salient features from it and then the class time can be used to analyze it and have discussions about the article rather than lecture about it.

Students are informed that the use of Red e App is for educational content and more urgent or critical communications, while email is reserved for passive/informational communications. Healthcare professionals are not bound to a desk, therefore, a mobile solution for direct digital communication with them may be the next evolution of effective learning.


Social media and mobile communication won’t eliminate traditional channels, there is always room and even a preference for a face-to-face chat with an individual patient about asthma, or having a traditional Journal Club. Technology, however, has a place at the forefront of medical education. If you provide the common courtesy to inform patients and students that you are using technology to assist in their health and learning, they will be more receptive to it.


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