Traditionally, we learned from our peers who we could visit down the hallway.  The “water cooler” was a real place for insight sharing.

With technology’s rapid advances, our hallway has become the world and the water cooler is normally online.  We all know this impacts how we learn, but how does it affect highly skilled professionals, such as physicians, in how they learn about what’s next and how to improve in the craft of medicine?

I thought of Asif Qasim, a consultant cardiologist, based in London.  He studied medicine at Cambridge University, returned there for a PhD and was an MRC visiting fellow at Yale.  So, he is smart academically.

He also a smart entrepreneur.  Asif saw a real gap and opportunity in how physicians learn online, which led him to create MedShr, the largest community for medical providers in the world with more than 500,000 members in more than 180 countries who meet to discuss live cases, train peers and learn in a borderless environment to advance health.

Here is our conversation on the power of peer learning in medicine.

Bob: As a cardiologist and a member of the global medical provider community, what did you see that was missing that led to creating MedShr?

Asif: Case discussion, both in terms of live cases and stored cases, have always been popular at cardiology congresses, but these meetings are relatively infrequent and case discussion had moved to social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. MedShr allows cardiologists to share and discuss clinical cases with the convenience and features of social media, but in a system compliant with governance requirements and patient privacy.

Bob: Great point.  You can only attend so many conferences each year to learn, but inside a MedShr community, you can learn every day if you choose to.  Big difference.

It is clear you must learn continually to be the best in medicine.  What are you learning about learning?

Asif: There are so many layers of evidence around learning on MedShr. Some are obvious in terms of the credentials of a member in terms of their role and seniority, but the most striking is the level of local custom and practice. In other words, clinical practice as a result of received wisdom. This often leads to local biases combined with safe healthcare practice but without the rigor of outcome based practice or cost/risk/benefit analysis.

Bob: Interesting point.  Local beliefs shape us, but if we share more across borders, we can focus more on the science and the outcome rather than be hemmed in by a local belief.  In fact, we may see practitioners evolve quicker in adopting new standards.

What do we learn from peers that we don’t learn from a book or a class?

In simple terms if clinical trials tell you what to do, case discussion helps you learn how to do it – both in terms of individual patients, and skills and techniques.

Bob: Learning “how” to do something is always a key to success.  Do you see a trend where MDs are learning more on a global level and why?  Are we right at the beginning of new ways to learn via technology?

Most specialties have had international congresses for many years, but the attendees and faculty do not necessarily reflect the talent that is in clinical practice. MedShr has allowed democratisation of this element of medical education and we are seeing engagement from very skilled and experienced doctors who would usually not attend or have a voice at international congresses.

Bob: So, the ability to interact and learn is drawing people into the community.  Powerful and makes sense.  It’s really a continuation of the medical congresses, which show us what is possible, then we need time to talk about “how” and “why” together.

If I go into MedShr, what can I do as an MD (if I was one)?

Asif: MedShr was developed to allow doctors to use their own smartphone to capture, share and discuss clinical cases as part of their everyday clinical practice – so that is a great way to start!

Bob: With 7 billion handsets in a world that is mobile first, I would agree.

Is MedShr open for non-MDs and if so, how does one join and what can they learn?

Asif: MedShr membership is limited to doctors, medical students and registered healthcare professionals with all members verified before they have full access. So, this includes nurses, physiologists, physiotherapists and other registered healthcare professionals.

Bob: Well, that doesn’t include me, but that’s ok.  If you are improving health, I’m good.

So, we can do all of this learning via mobile phone and an app.  How will learning evolve from here from your vantage point?  (more telemedicine, more diagnosis cross-border, etc)

Asif: There are some very exciting possibilities looking at VR and augmented reality in medical training, particularly as a way to improve simulation in medical procedure and surgical training. In terms of clinical assessment and diagnostics AI and machine learning are going to play crucial roles in coming years.

Bob: Great point. I have always imagined medical device training, for example, happening worldwide via VR/AR.  What are the most exciting things happening in medicine today in your view?

Asif: If you take genetic testing, precision and personalised medicine and the opportunities for gene editing we have the potential to modify and perhaps cure a wide range of damaging chronic and terminal diseases.

Bob: I’ll second that.  Thank you, Asif.  It does feel like we are on the edge of a new way for professionals to learn their craft daily independent of geography or even culture.  Appreciate your insights.