FOAMed – a Primer for Physicians

So this week I am giving a talk to a bunch of physicians at the Internal Medicine Society of Australia & New Zealand. In true FOAMed spirit, I’m making the talk available online prior to the session (as a nod to the concept of a ‘flipped classroom’) and putting up some useful links for those who decide to explore the FOAMed world a little closer.

Big thanks to Chris Nickson for the inspiration of using Star Wars stormtroopers as a metaphor for ‘taking the world by storm’…and of course to Joe Lex for both the oft-quoted phrase “if you want to know how we practiced medicine…” as well as introducing me to the terms of pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy.

They say that an audience will only take away THREE things from any talk. The concepts I wanted to get across were :

  • half of what we learn is wrong; FOAMed is a tool to help narrow the knowledge translation gap and keep up-to-date
  • we live in an age of information overload, likened to ‘drinking from a firehose’. Social Media tools allow filters to help drill down to the information that is relevant to your needs
  • using the tools of FOAMed and social media, we can make a commitment to lifelong learning much easier. Moreover, with such accelerated learning comes the potential for metacognition – specifically to understand HOW we learn and make decisions as clinicians. This is important as our diagnostic acumen is subject to bias and may fool us, regardless of our knowledge base.

So, here’s the talk as a narrated slideshow hosted on vimeo :

The slides can be downloaded by clicking HERE as a PDF file and HERE as a powerpoint inc embedded video


The introductory video (FOAMed – taking the world by storm) is below :

What is FOAMed and why should I use it?

I like to think of FOAMed as a global sharing of information. We are all involved in clinical educators  we get up at journal clubs, grand rounds or conferences and deliver talks. But the reach of those talks is confined to those who attend…unless you take the bold step of creating online content – basically, putting up your ideas, talks, slides etc online in a form where ANYONE can access them. This might be in the form of a blog (reading commentary or analysis), a podcast (eg : listening to a discussion on a contentious topic) or a video (watching how to perform a procedure).

Good FOAMed sites collate information, curate it and disseminate it – with information made available for free (although attribution is expected).

It is hard to go beyond the summary of FOAMed origins and uses from the crew

Chris Nickson talks about “Why FOAMed – facts fallacies and foibles”

Andy Neill’s pecha kucha talk is here “Effective Use of Social Media to Keep Up-to-Date

Richard Body talks on why FOAMed is essential for emergency clinicians (from #CEMExeter14 conference)

David Marcus has a great set of slides here : FOAMed primer and other talks at EM IM blog

Some great examples of collated & curated FOAMed sites include : &

and so on…

There are MANY MANY more – mostly emergency and critical care, but increasingly other specialties are coming on line – urologists (eg uroJC twitter journal club), general practitioners ( etc.

The maxim is for :

content creation – with collation, curation … and communication

The list of available FOAMed resources is growing exponentially (over 400 blogs for EM/CC alone).

The sites above reflects MY bias and learning needs – it may not reflect yours!

So – dive on in and explore the FOAMed world (Google FOAMed)…and if you cannot find any relevant content on an area in which you have expertise or passion, then GET BUSY and CREATE YOUR OWN! The more quality content that is out there, the better for everyone…


The best medical conference – ever!

For an example of how an excellent medical conference should be run, it’s hard to top smacc. Cadogan commented that whilst FOAMed was conceived in a Dublin bar in 2012, FOAMed was conceived at smacc2013 in Sydney. A year later smaccGOLD built on that success, with many different ‘tribes’ involved in critical care and emergency medicine coming together to share stories and learn from each other. Next year we are off to Chicago for smaccUS…check it out & register at

There is also an iTunes feed for downloadable podcasts –

Of course the collated videos of smacc talks are available on Vimeo via

Here’s some feedback on smacc from assorted bloggers

“Lessons learned from smacc – bye bye dogma, – hello best practice”

“You’ve gotta have love”

“Social media & critical care”

“smaccGOLD – it hurts”

“Where do you start with something like smacc?”


How to use tools of Social Media to help filter and signpost FOAMed

Social media (SoMe) is useful to disseminate and discuss clinical topics. By now you will be aware that there is a vast repository of useful educational resources “out there” on the net – blogs, podcast, videos etc. But how to filter them?

The easiest thing to do is just to read blogs on topics you are interested in or authored by people who you feel have something to offer. One of the nice things about the FOAMed community is that people share good content willingly and will signpost links to interesting content. Good sites collate quality FOAMed material, curate it and disseminate it. They may have a ‘search’ function on the site…failing that, there is always to search for good stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.37.05 am

RSS feeds are ideal – if you see this symbol on a website, click it to ensure that new content is delivered to your email, RSS aggregator or iTunes download queue. This makes it much easier to target FOAMed content that you are interested in – rather than have to trawl through blogs looking for updates, new content is streamed to you. By only clicking on feeds that are of interest to you, one can filter the FOAMed content, to a degree.



I am a big fan of using RSS aggregators to collate input from twitter, blogs, google+ etc into an app – I use one called Feedly, which displays my content in a magazine style format


Twitter. Really?

I was a sceptic initially, but now find that twitter is a great way to keep in touch, ask questions of colleagues, discuss concepts and also signpost relevant journal articles or FOAMed resources.

Twitter is essentially a microblogging platform – once you’ve registered, set up a user ID and a brief description of self/interests, then you are free to either follow like-minded people or start opening up your own conversations. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so it is very difficult to have a nuanced conversation, Hashtags are common for conferences eg #IMSANZ14 and can also be used to collate information eg : #FOAMed #resus would delineate tweets with these items as search terms.


The Twitter app is free for download on mobile and PC/OS platforms. Afficiandos may decide to use an app like TweetDeck or TweetBot to allow collation of different content and even schedule tweets (I was involved in an on stage debate at #smaccGOLD on the use of checklists in airway management, and managed to wow the audience by talking and having simultaneous twitter feed broadcast to the audience both in the hall and worldwide, to broaden the reach of my delivery)

Learn how to get started with Twitter from these excellent videos from Rob Rogers and colleagues at – expect more from them



Life Long Learning & Metacognition

More than anything else, FOAMed makes one think about HOW we learn in medicine. Osler nailed this “medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability”. We like to think that we are astute diagnosticians – but we are constrained by our inherent cognitive bias.

Understanding HOW we make decisions is particularly important in critical care medicine – making decisions based on limited information, under pressure.

I recommend :

Simon Carley talks on ‘Guess or Gestalt’ regarding decision-making in EM (from #CEMExeter14 conference)

Chris Nickson on why ‘All Doctors are Jackasses’ (from #smacc2013 conference)

Joe Lex on why FOAMed is essential to medical education (includes discussion of pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy)

as well as Lex on ‘from Hippcrates to Osler to FOAM’

…and Chris Edwards’ excellent talk on ‘May the FOAMed Be With You’

There are a few more videos on decision-making & education here :

Damian Roland on ‘Evaluating Education’

Victoria Brazil on ‘Evidence based education’

Cliff Reid on ‘Resuscitation Dogmalysis’

Simon Carley (again) on ‘Do Risk Factors Factor?’

…and yet again, Carley delivers ‘Wrestling with Risk’

…and again on ‘educational Leadership & Subversion’


Where to from here?

If you are inspired to create some GOOD medical education content and host as FOAMed, we’d love to hear from you

This post on blogging and blog basics is useful


Dive on in – the FOAMed is lovely!


1 thought on “FOAMed – a Primer for Physicians”

  1. Pingback: CPD points for #FOAMed & SoMe? - KI Doc

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