Telegram for Oncologists: Moving towards alternative methods of “CME”

I was speaking to someone who’s in the same pain point as I was during my residency- access to study resources and textbooks. The volume of literature has grown manifold since then.

I did my residency in the pre-broadband era (we were moving towards it), and Dropbox was just a startup. Facebook had just started out and growing mainstream. Pen drives were a rarity and anyone having a 2 GB drive was seen with envy. It is a far cry now, and I have over 3TB of online space; my network streams at 100Mbps (with a potential for more) and fibre has gone mainstream in most parts of the world.

However, the same problems of access persist- digital rights management, paywalled articles and expensive textbooks.

While it is tempting to suggest ways and means to overcome the restrictions, this post is not about them. Why place them there in the first place? Assuming that the article is paywalled, it would cost USD 35 to read it (not own it). Duplication of “research” compounds these problems that make it difficult to judge its extrapolations. Expensive subscriptions would further break the bank (debts, who wants debts?)

They have their use cases for those who find meaning in them; I am merely addressing an issue related to the cost of access for resources. While the Open Access movement has gained steam, it is mired in the passive-aggressive stance of the publishers. Granted that they would do anything to preserve the status quo, we still have a lot of ground to cover.

Likewise, the books tend to get outdated when they are released. It is essential to lay emphasis on theory but more than that- practical aspects of application of that theory. For example, while partial breast irradiation may be in vogue, it would be more instructive to hear out a different perspective on patterns of clinical presentation/failures/ extent of surgeries and number of nodes harvested etc. These are different across geographies, and it is essential to be cognizant of these facts.

I always believe that failure patterns hold more importance than the theory itself.

TextBooks can’t still cover those aspects, and it would become apparent to learn from those who can speak out.

In this scenario, I’d advocate shifting towards private channels for studying. While Twitter seems to have gathered some semblance towards doing journal clubs, it has its own limitations- characters limit and following a specific hashtag. I do see some of them popping up in my timeline, but I necessarily can’t follow it as it becomes too overwhelming to follow the threads.

I spend the bulk of my time in Telegram that serves my needs- access to my chats, specific niche channels for content and relative ease to call up irrespective of the distance. (Video calling is coming soon for the groups).

Why not have a dedicated channel for study groups? Post quizzes, use that as a medium for teaching; videos, multimedia content and PowerPoint presentations (for example). An associated group can easily handle queries/ clarifications/ general banter, and you can use the same hashtags to quickly locate the content. I have personally managed large groups using bots than can restrict spam or address other issues related to large communities.

I think, going forward, we should embrace the available technology tools to address these niggling issues- time/distance/access. Together, we can hash out a solution.