BACKGROUND: Clinicians frequently have questions about patient care. However, for more than half of the generated questions, answers are never pursued, and if they are, often not answered satisfactorily. We aimed to characterise the clinical questions asked and answers provided by general practitioners (GP) through posts to a popular professional social media network.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, we analysed clinical questions and answers posted between January 20th and February 10th 2018 on a popular GP-restricted (Australia, New Zealand) Facebook group. Each clinical question was categorised according to 'background' or 'foreground' question; type (e.g. treatment, diagnosis); and the clinical topic (e.g. cardiovascular). Each answer provided in response to included questions was categorised into: (i) short answer (e.g. agree/disagree); (ii) provided an explanation to justify the answer; and (iii) referred to a published relevant evidence resource.
RESULTS: Of 1060 new posts during the study period, 204 (19%) included a clinical question. GPs most commonly asked about treatment (n = 87; 43%) and diagnosis (n = 59; 29%). Five major topics (23% skin, 10% psychology, 9% cardiovascular, 8% female genital, and 7% musculoskeletal) accounted for 118 (58%) questions. Each question received on average 10 (SD = 9) answers: 42% were short; 51% provided an explanation; and only 6% referred to relevant research evidence. Only 3 answers referred to systematic reviews.
CONCLUSIONS: In this sample of Australian and New Zealand GPs, who were members of a GP social media group, GPs asked clinical questions that can be organised into a limited number of question types and topics. This might help guide the development of GP learning programs.