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13-12-2019 | Review Article | Uitgave 1/2020 Open Access

Perspectives on Medical Education 1/2020

Social media in knowledge translation and education for physicians and trainees: a scoping review

Perspectives on Medical Education > Uitgave 1/2020
Teresa M. Chan, Kristina Dzara, Sara Paradise Dimeo, Anuja Bhalerao, Lauren A. Maggio
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s40037-019-00542-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.



The use of social media is rapidly changing how educational content is delivered and knowledge is translated for physicians and trainees. This scoping review aims to aggregate and report trends on how health professions educators harness the power of social media to engage physicians for the purposes of knowledge translation and education.


A scoping review was conducted by searching four databases (PubMed, Scopus, Embase, and ERIC) for publications emerging between 1990 to March 2018. Articles about social media usage for teaching physicians or their trainees for the purposes of knowledge translation or education were included. Relevant themes and trends were extracted and mapped for visualization and reporting, primarily using the Cook, Bordage, and Schmidt framework for types of educational studies (Description, Justification, and Clarification).


There has been a steady increase in knowledge translation and education-related social media literature amongst physicians and their trainees since 1996. Prominent platforms include Twitter (n = 157), blogs (n = 104), Facebook (n = 103), and podcasts (n = 72). Dominant types of scholarship tended to be descriptive studies and innovation reports. Themes related to practice improvement, descriptions of the types of technology, and evidence-based practice were prominently featured.


Social media is ubiquitously used for knowledge translation and education targeting physicians and physician trainees. Some best practices have emerged despite the transient nature of various social media platforms. Researchers and educators may engage with physicians and their trainees using these platforms to increase uptake of new knowledge and affect change in the clinical environment.
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