NephMadness Organizers Offer “Gamified” CME and Advice to Others

According to organizers of a successful online educational program called NephMadness, one way to engage physicians in continuing medical education (CME) delivered via social media platforms is to avoid asking questions with clear-cut, right-or-wrong answers. CME questions posed on social media should encourage spirited debate, not produce winners and losers, the organizers suggested.

This advice was given by Joel M. Topf, MD, of the Oakland University, in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology held October 31 to November 5, 2017 in New Orleans, LA. Co-presenters and NephMadness organizers included Matthew A. Sparks, MD, of Duke, and Anna Marie Burgner, MD, of Vanderbilt.

"If you ask [clear-cut, right-or-wrong] questions in a forum that is public, permanent, and searchable, it is not going to invite participation," Topf said. "People hate to be wrong, especially when it can be checked. They will skip it."

Launched in 2013, NephMadness has gone through 5 iterations, and—along the way—the organizers have experimented with the medium. One of the goals of this Kidney Week presentation was to share lessons with others who might hope to start similar educational campaigns.

NephMadness is an educational "game" that takes place entirely online, leveraging social media and Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed) to highlight advances and neglected issues in nephrology. It draws inspiration from the "March Madness" college basketball tournament and consists of 32 nephrology concepts in 8 topics that change every year.

Each concept is reviewed in a blog post that provides the core educational content of the game. Independent content experts help select the content and fact check the blog posts. During the 3-week contest, other experts publish additional commentaries.

Participants interact through blog-based review articles, an interactive website, and Twitter-based discussion. They attempt to predict the winners of all 31 matchups. At first, the winners were scripted by the organizers. Then, after some user pushback, participants voted for winners. Now, NephMadness uses a panel of experts to determine winners; users can still vote, but votes do not determine winners—a disparity that also fuels debate.

In 2017, 32 fellowship training programs participated in NephMadness. Prizes are awarded for the most accurate predictions and for programs with the greatest participation. Over the last 4 years, 1,481 individuals from 55 countries have participated.

Another piece of advice Topf gave to the audience was to remember that physicians can start such programs without outside help. Early on, NephMadness tried to partner with a large, well-known medical publisher, but it did not work out. "It ended up being a big bureaucracy and a hassle," he said. "We no longer do that. We can do it on our own."

Source: Topf JM, Burgner AM, Yau T, Hiremath S, Sparks M. NephMadness: 5 years' experience. Presented at: American Society of Nephrology annual meeting, Kidney Week 2017; October 31-November 5, 2017; New Orleans, LA. Oral Presentation 008