Free Open Access Meducation – FOAM

By Jonathan Sherbino (@sherbino)

“If you want to know how we practiced medicine 5 years ago, read a textbook.

If you want to know how we practiced medicine 2 years ago, read a journal.

If you want to know how we practice medicine now, go to a (good) conference.

If you want to know how we will be practicing medicine in the future, listen

in the hallways and use FOAM.”

Joe Lex  (@JoeLex5)

If you are not an emergency physician, FOAM (Free Open Access Medical Education /Meducation depending on your source) may be a new concept.  FOAM is dominating the conversation in emergency medicine education, but I see signs of “infection” (in a good way!) in other clinical specialties.

Coined in a bar (I love this part!) in 2012 by Mike Cadogan at the International Conference on Emergency Medicine, FOAM leverages emerging technology to connect communities and individuals. The virtual community of practice that results via this technology-supported network allows the FREE distribution of education resources and promotes subsequent development and advancement of shared innovations.  The silos of education, where innovations are endlessly re-invented and never shared, are leveled by FOAM. FOAM is not a media platform (e.g. pod/vodcasts, blogs, Twitter lists, portals, MOOCs, smartphone apps etc.), rather it is a social phenomenon of distributing knowledge (old concept) via emerging technology (new concept).

A great example of FOAM is Life in the Fast Lane, a portal for the free distribution of emergency medicine and critical care resources. Here and here.  This portal has greater than 500k page views each month (per Alexa)

If volume is a marker of impact, a Google search of #FOAMed results in ~ 38k hits. The same search strategy on Twitter results in a long list of educators that identify under the FOAM banner. The crazy thing is that FOAM won’t even celebrate it’s 2nd birthday for another 6 months!