In a first for the medical profession, doctors seeking to keep their licenses and expertise up to date can complete the credits they need through one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet.
YouTube and Harvard Medical School have unveiled a collaboration that will enable doctors to earn continuing medical education credits by watching clips on the popular video platform.
Physicians across specialties are required to complete these credits periodically to maintain their licenses and ensure their medical knowledge is up to date after they graduate. Beginning today, they’ll be able to count content on Harvard Medical School’s Continuing Education channel toward those requirements. Harvard partnered with the Google-owned streamer after seeing hundreds of thousands of clinicians across the globe tuning into content it had shared online during the pandemic, according to longtime dean of external education David Roberts.
“This has been an area that’s been ripe for innovation,” Roberts told Forbes. The school may be more than two centuries old, he acknowledged, but he said online learning through video is “an opportunity to pull medical education, or continuing medical education, into the 21st century.”
“All these things were happening before Covid but have just accelerated massively” in the last few years, he added. “This enables us to transcend borders and have an impact far beyond not only our campus or just our local region, but around the world.”
Even as YouTube and its rivals have been challenged—especially during the pandemic—to tamp down on misinformation about public health and conspiracies about vaccines, YouTube has been at the fore of finding ways to integrate social media with health care. At the height of the crisis, the video giant brought on a practicing cardiologist and former senior health official in the Bush and Obama administrations, Dr. Garth Graham, to oversee its health arm. Graham has been outspoken about the benefits of using social media to reach more patients, expand access to medical expertise, and promote accurate (while debunking false) health information.
Graham said YouTube has started seeing more medical professionals visiting the site to keep up with information from institutions and colleagues, so the program evolved out of an attempt “to meet clinicians where they are.” (They started with Harvard, which Graham called “the gold standard on a lot of this,” hoping it may fuel others in medical education to follow suit.)
“There are components of medicine that are amenable to being in-person, and there are components of education that can easily be advanced by our ability to bring information to people in a convenient way,” he said. But “it’s not just convenience—it’s also part of tackling this challenge of clinician burnout. We have to be able to make things easier for clinicians.” Eliminating the need to travel to lecture halls or conferences to claim potentially dozens of credits is one way to do that, he said.
Continuing medical education requirements vary by state and discipline. Traditionally, doctors needed to travel to meetings or conferences to count their hours and obtain these credits. Although more of these opportunities have moved online for a fee in recent years, putting this on a mainstream platform that has already been so widely adopted makes it more “practical,” easy to access and appealing, Graham said, in addition to saving clinicians the costs of having to travel and shut down their offices. (There is a small processing fee, between $5 and $15, for claiming credits this way.)
“What we’re really trying to do is make it easier and then be a part of an experience that they’re already used to, in terms of spending time on YouTube,” he said.
Harvard’s YouTube content that will be eligible for these credits is made by Harvard Medical School faculty, and the videos are ad-free. Nine courses are eligible starting today in areas including health care disparities; clinician wellness; child and adolescent mental health; pulmonary hypertension and lymphoma. In one qualifying, peer-reviewed six-minute video that already has 15,000 views, Dr. Lee-Shing Chang, an endocrinologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discusses FDA-approved medications for weight management and how they work, complete with citations. Clinicians who wish to claim credits on videos like these move from YouTube to the medical school’s website to attest that they’ve completed the work required and answer questions about the content in the video they just watched, Roberts said.
“Over the last three years, we have proven that this can be done, and that clinicians really like it,” he said. “Do we lose something? Absolutely—we lose networking, we lose talking to the professor one-on-one—but what do we gain? … It becomes a seamless, straightforward interaction like the rest of your life, and that’s really what we’re aiming for. You should be learning on the fly in the way you do so many other things.”
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