A study in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery this month reports that 64% of plastic surgeons describe having used online videos to learn new procedures.
What’s remarkable isn’t the 64%, but the fact that the study drew so much attention. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. The Internet, after all, is typically seen as a sewer of misinformation. Good medical information comes from textbooks. And forget Wikipedia.
A couple of thoughts:
Surgeons learn by watching. This isn’t breaking news. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that surgeons would learn on the most ubiquitous video platform in the world. A more interesting study would have been to examine how many surgeons learn by reading things printed on compressed pulp.
Good educational content is good no matter where it lives. Information is now shared in more dynamic, fluid spaces than printed text books. When we view educational content through a 20th century lens, learning from YouTube videos is seen as shocking.
The crowd is the editor. When every plastic surgeon in America references and refers to one amazing rhinoplasty video, it represents social peer review. Plastic surgeons, like patients, are smarter than you think when it comes to recognizing what’s worthy of their attention.
The Internet actually is a sewer of misinformation. Sturgeon’s Law dictates that 90% of everything is crap. But the problem is that we don’t know which 90%. We need the wisdom of the crowd coupled with practical sensibility. The challenge with open access educational content comes with medical trainees who lack the capacity to recognize reliable sources.
When mobile phones were new we counted the numbers of doctors using them. We will have arrived when we stop publishing papers about how many doctors learn watching videos.