Social Networking Proves it Value in the Surgical Suite

Staying in touch with old friends, keeping up with trends and tapping into some entertaining videos are some of the reasons that people gravitate toward social networking sites.  Improving surgery skills, however, is not a top-of-mind social media utilization. 

But, perhaps, it should be.  Surgical residents who received anonymous feedback from peers via a social networking site demonstrated greater improvement in their robotic surgery skills than their contemporaries who didn't receive the pointers, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Surgery.

"We have demonstrated that social networking can be a viable forum for coaching, both for residents honing their craft and for practicing surgeons," said senior author Jim Hu, M.D., director of robotic and minimally invasive surgery in the urology department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Technique matters, regardless of what type of surgery you're doing. Surgeons who invest time in reviewing their techniques on video and seek the feedback and coaching of others ultimately will do better in terms of performance."

The study, published in the early online edition of Annals of Surgery, is the first to examine the use of social networking to facilitate peer review of surgical procedure videos. Research participants included 41 urology and gynecology residents from UCLA and the University of Michigan who used a robotic surgery simulator to sew and tie two tubes together. The residents were randomized into one of two groups -- an intervention group in which the residents videotaped their efforts and posted the videos on a social networking site for anonymous review and comment by their peers in the same group, and a control group in which participants did not videotape or post their work for review. Residents in the intervention group improved their technique in subsequent attempts, had shorter completion times and earned better scores from the simulator for technical efficiency, accuracy and economy of motion, according to the study's results.

"Our study demonstrates the efficacy of peer feedback through social networking, a novel paradigm for technical mentorship. A benefit of using social networking as a forum is that it may serve as a vehicle for neophyte surgeons to receive mentorship from experts without the limitation of geographic distance or time constraints," the study states. "Peer feedback of the online surgical video offers anonymity for all involved and therefore removes potential barriers due to competitive surgeon egos. It may be a paradigm for continuous technical improvement beyond residency or fellowship training, which is critical with rapidly adopted new technologies such as robotic surgery."