Importance: New dissemination methods are needed to engage physicians in evidence-based continuing medical education (CME).
Objective: To examine the effectiveness of social media in engaging physicians in non-industry-sponsored CME.
Design: We tested the effect of different media platforms (e-mail, Facebook, paid Facebook and Twitter), CME topics, and different "hooks" (e.g., Q&A, clinical pearl and best evidence) on driving clicks to a landing site featuring non-industry sponsored CME. We modelled the effects of social media platform, CME topic, and hook using negative binomial regression on clicks to a single landing site. We used clicks to landing site adjusted for exposure and message number to calculate rate ratios. To understand how physicians interact with CME content on social media, we also conducted interviews with 10 physicians.
Setting: The National Physicians Alliance (NPA) membership.
Participants: NPA e-mail recipients, Facebook followers and friends, and Twitter followers.
Main outcomes and measures: Clicks to the NPA's CME landing site.
Results: On average, 4,544 recipients received each message. Messages generated a total of 592 clicks to the landing site, for a rate of 5.4 clicks per 1000 recipients exposed. There were 5.4 clicks from e-mail, 11.9 clicks from Facebook, 5.5 clicks from paid Facebook, and 6.9 clicks from Twitter to the landing site for 1000 physicians exposed to each of 4 selected CME modules. A Facebook post generated 2.3x as many clicks to the landing site as did an e-mail after controlling for participant exposure, hook type and CME topic (p<0.001). Twitter posts (p = 0.13) and paid Facebook posts (p = 0.06) were not statistically different from e-mail in generating clicks to the landing site. Use of different hooks to engage physicians had no impact on clicks to the landing site. Interviews with physicians suggested that social media might not be a preferred vehicle for disseminating CME.
Conclusions: Social media has a modest impact on driving traffic to evidence-based CME options. Facebook had a superior effect on driving physician web traffic to evidence-based CME compared to other social media platforms and email.