As the volume of radiation oncology information increases, the ability to gather and critically appraise high-quality information in order to answer clinical questions becomes increasingly challenging for radiation oncologists. Sharing knowledge about new information and practice variations is instrumental to high-quality radiation oncology practices.
Nadine Housri, MD; Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Introduction: As the volume of radiation oncology information increases, the ability to gather and critically appraise high-quality information in order to answer clinical questions becomes increasingly challenging for radiation oncologists. Additionally, emerging technologies and new information lead to increasing variations in practice. Sharing knowledge about new information and practice variations is instrumental to high-quality radiation oncology practices. The content of a radiation oncology–specific social media question-and-answer website, themednet.org, was analyzed to determine whether a social media format could provide reliable, data-driven radiation oncology information.
Methods: All answers posted in a soft-launch period between December 2012 and September 2013 and following launch in September 2013 were evaluated. In the prelaunch phase, membership to the site was by invitation only. In September 2013, the site was opened to all radiation oncologists and radiation oncology residents. Answers were evaluated for quality based on whether they cited published data, personal experience, guidelines, or current and future clinical trials.
Results: Between December 2012 and November 2013, there were 68 answers posted to 54 questions. The highest number of answers was related to breast cancer (12), followed by genitourinary and gastrointestinal cancers (10 each), palliation (7), gynecologic cancers (7), thoracic malignancies (6), mentorship/career development (4), head and neck cancers (3), lymphoma (3), central nervous system tumors (3), soft tissue tumors (1), protons (1), and global health (1). Of the 54 answered questions, the majority had one answer, while 12 had two or more answers. Academic radiation oncologists posted 54 answers, while community physicians and residents posted 4 and 5 answers, respectively. Fourteen answers were related to advanced technology (intensity-modulated radiation therapy [IMRT], proton therapy, intraoperative radiotherapy, stereotactic treatments, or advanced imaging). Thirty-three answers cited a total of 54 publications, while 11 referred to data without specifically citing a publication. Fifty-nine answers referred to personal experience, and 27 cited both data and personal experience. Additionally, 11 answers referred to current or future clinical trials.
Conclusions: In the initial launch of a question-and-answer social media website for radiation oncologists, the majority of content was found to refer to personal practices, followed by the published literature. Social media may be a useful tool to share knowledge and practice patterns. Further research will be necessarily to determine if this form of knowledge-sharing can be used to improve the quality of patient care.