FOAM, free open access medical education, is an online movement taking place across social media, blogs, and podcasts that is challenging traditional methods of medical education.1,2 Its acronym coined in 2012, FOAM represents more than just the content of the learning resources; it is considered to be an ethos, a dedication to the learning and teaching of medicine in a collaborative environment made easily accessible by online platforms.1 These new educational platforms are changing the way learners engage with educational resources and how research is translated into practice.3 Recent studies have demonstrated that 97.7 percent of American medical residents are spending at least one hour per week supplementing their traditional academic curricula with podcasts.4 This rapid expansion and increasing influence of FOAM in emergency medicine suggests a need for ethical analysis. Pros and cons of FOAM from an ethical perspective are outlined in Table 1. The ensuing discussion elaborates on these key issues emergency physicians should consider when utilizing or participating in FOAM.
Our responsibility to protect patient privacy and health care information takes on new complexity in the FOAM and social media environment. The risks, especially when discussing clinical case vignettes or sharing radiographic or electrocardiographic content, are well described.5 Attentive care to “de-identification” of publicly shared content requires not only removal of key patient details (eg, names, ages, and birth dates) but also more subtle identifiers such as unique conditions, events, locations, and time lines. When participating in FOAM, emergency physicians should follow the guidelines established in ACEP’s forthcoming policy on use of social media.