MedShr, which now has more than 500,000 physician users in 180 countries, is an online platform that combines social media technology with a network of verified medical professionals for clinical case discussion. In this commentary, the platform’s founder Asif Qasim explains why he set up MedShr and why he feels it is a useful tool for physicians.
Prior to MedShr and before the Facebook era, I developed an online network for sport that used a web platform help people to find people to play sports. I then took what I learnt from that experience to build a web platform for cardiologists while I was working as a fellow in Milan 10 years ago. That platform grew organically to have 3,000 members and it is really what inspired MedShr.
MedShr was then developed to enable doctors to use their smartphones to share and discuss clinical cases; it was designed for them to use this information in a way that was compliant in terms of patient privacy and information governance. Most doctors carry a smartphone and we wanted to harness this power, together with the latest social network technology, to support medical education. But, it was essential that we build privacy and data protection features into MedShr right from the start.
MedShr is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (USA), General Medical Council (UK) and General Data Protection Regulation (EU) compliant and now has users in every UK hospital and medical school. Members are verified as doctors, medical students or registered healthcare professionals before being allowed to view or discuss clinical cases. The basic principle is that members are expected to conduct themselves as they would in a professional environment, and that they will be held to account by their registering body if necessary.
We know that around 70% of doctors in the UK share patient information and clinical cases every week through non-compliant channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and messaging services. Bringing doctors from social media to MedShr is an important first step, and the MedShr team is working with NHS Trusts and education providers to do this.
Recently, Health Education England announced a collaboration with MedShr—appointing junior doctors for a year of out-of-programme experience as MedShr-HEE fellows, working with Royal Colleges and Trusts to use MedShr case discussion as part of formal training and accreditation.
MedShr operates as a platform with a wide range of partners including the BMJ Group, Elsevier, Omniamed and a wide range of national and specialist societies. The app and web platform are free to use, and sponsorship by commercial partners (including pharmaceutical and device companies) is used to fund the network. There are some basis principles that are applied to protect members and maintain the integrity of MedShr. Firstly, industry employees do not have access to the Medshr platform and are not able to create, view or comment on cases; cases are created by physicians and not by industry employees. Also MedShr does not provide any personal member data about members to commercial sponsors. The principles seem similar to those applied to a specialist conference and strike a balance, allowing sponsored medical education without compromising the integrity of the MedShr community.
The value of case discussion to cardiologists is clear, and reflected by the numerous Facebook and WhatsApp groups that are used to share cardiology images and discuss cases. Browsing through Medhr, you see that the cardiology cases range from ECGs and heart rhythm to complex coronary intervention and imaging. There are already more than 30,000 cardiologists on MedShr, so it is an exciting opportunity to connect the specialty around the world.
Therefore, with the platform, we have a simple call to action. Social media has allowed doctors to connect and engage as never before but we must ensure we that we maintain patient privacy, especially when discussing cases. We at Medshr would urge doctors and healthcare professionals to move case discussion from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and messenger services to our platform, which is purpose built to support medical professionals and protect patients.
Asif Qasim is a London-based interventional cardiologist and is the founder of Medshr.