February 20, 2011

Discussion forums, part 2

The doctors discussed various ways to discuss that difficult case Not so long ago I hade some thoughts about a common discussion forum for emergency physicians all around the world. The idea came more from the need than "just because I can do it".

Emergency medicine is a very young specialty in Scandinavia and as such we have a lot to learn and discover. Although my ED can proudly claim to be one of the first and most developed in Scandinavia - we still are no more than 30 or so young and enthusiastic residents but without the backup of emergency medicine specialists who've been there for ages and "seen it all". So we have many questions and ponders over clinical and practical aspects of the ED which require that extra experience and cannot be answered internally. Comparison of treatment methods or approach, types and use of ultrasound devices, prehospital involvement just to name a few examples - a discussion forum would be truly useful for sharing thoughts with colleges abroad and having those special questions answered or at least discussed.

Some might have thought Facebook is all we need and surely it would be sufficient if everyone was familiar and comfortable with it's privacy hassle. It turns out doctors are paranoid as cats in the bathtub and I've never been able to engage projects with FB because of this, frustrating as it is. Twitter is another option and with the use of a selected hash-tag, say #em-forum, it should be easy to setup a centralized, simple to use platform. But tweets are limited to 140 characters only and discussions are open to the whole Internet. And then too many doctors don't even have a Twitter account, except for Dr. Bailey who just jumped onboard.

I exchanged my thoughts with the ever hyperproductive LITFL guys and they reminded me of http://www.doctors.net.uk which is essentially a social network (Facebook like) platform where registration is moderated so that there are only doctors signed in. I must admit, I haven't been there for a while but the mere idea of persuading thousands of emergency physicians to register and try it out gives me chills all the way from brainstem down to cauda equina. I actually tried once using the free-and-easy-to-use Ning social-networking platform to engage my colleges - they liked the idea but signup/login treshold and a miniscule learning curve was still enough to kill it in birth. Doctors are busy, conservative (just a polite way of saying IT-lazy) and generally exhausted - everything new needs to be dead simple, easy, ready-to-use and again; dead simple.

That leaves us with only one option, email. Every doctor has an email and reads it on a daily basis or so. A server backup-ed, email based postlist system with functions to moderate content and members would be absolutely necessary. Members would want to have an option to login to change their profile and settings (receive immediately or digested content) and even go back in time and read older posts in the archive. Members should be able to see each others and even contact them individually. The system should still be closed for the public, that is - open for special registration/invitation only.
Is this starting to sound like Google Groups? Well, it is. GG is the only system I have managed to use to successfully get together a group of doctors and believe me, I've tried a lot of platforms.

Besides being a tip for you if you wan't to engage your colleges at work for off-work discussions, this will be my attempt to make a unified discussion platform for enthusiastic and alike emergency physicians all around the world. Now that I have colleges in USA, Australia, Iceland, Sweden and UK - this surely has a potential for multicultural emergency medicine discussions. So if you feel interested please feel free to invite yourself at

We'll see what this expirement leads to!