GPs are increasingly seeking answers to clinical questions from their peers on social media networks, and five clinical specialities account for more than half the questions.
An analysis of more than 200 clinical questions posted on the ‘GPs Down Under’ (GPDU) professional Facebook group found that more than 80% were specific questions about the diagnosis and treatment of a condition and 58% were related to five specialist areas (see table below).
The GPDU forum is a restricted forum that has more than 5800 GP members.
The most frequently posted questions were about whether a particular treatment was suitable or effective for a condition, (eg “what treatment options for a second therapy for H. pylori infection after a failure with Nexium Hp?“) and questions about how the practitioner should manage a specific condition (eg “how should I manage ilioinguinal nerve entrapment?”).
Other common questions related the possible cause or interpretation of findings and how to act on them (eg “asymptomatic middle aged lady presented with acute-onset of midline painless lump in the palate. What is the cause of this? Could be mucinous cyst?”).
Questions posted on the GPs Down Under forum attracted an average of 20 replies, of which about half provided answers to the question. However, although about half provided some explanation or justification for the answer, only 6% referred to an evidence-based resource.
The researchers who conducted the analysis said the findings showed there was still a significant unmet educational need in primary care for clinical knowledge.
[The] questions raised on social media networks may be helpful in guiding the development of GP future continuous learning programs (e.g. tailored according to identified information needs) and research activities (e.g. by identifying research-practice evidence gaps),” they wrote.
However they also cautioned that doctors’ use of social media to answer clinical questions might result in the delivery and perpetuation of unsound answers to a large group of practitioners.
“Therefore, methods to enhance active dissemination of question-specific evidence-based information (such as by Facebook group administrators or evidence champions) are warranted.
Study co-author Dr Karen Price, a Melbourne GP, told the limbic there were no plans for GPDU to have contributions from specialists other than GPs on clinical questions.
“At this stage we have not needed specialist input yet nor has it been requested. In terms of the cultural safety of GPDU I feel the group would vigorously oppose that traditional mode of learning noting also that it doesn’t always translate to our particular learning needs,” she said.
“Whilst we respect our other specialist colleagues we often find that there can be difficulty talking across our different paradigms. General practice is often not well understood, given that we offer longitudinal holistic care balancing many probabilities as well as patient preferences versus single disease focussed interventions.”
Top 5 clinical topics for questions:
- Skin 23%
- Psychological 9.8%
- Cardiovascular 9.3%
- Female Genital 8.3%
- Musculoskeletal 7.4%
Other clinical topics:
- Neurological 6.9%
- Digestive 6.4%
- Pregnancy, Childbearing, Family Planning 5.9%
- Endocrine/Metabolic and Nutritional 5.9%
- Respiratory 2.9%
- Blood, Blood Forming Organs and Immune Mechanism 2.5%