Introduction: Free open-access medical education (FOAM) is a collection of interactive online medical education resources—free and accessible to students, physicians and other learners. This novel approach to medical education has the potential to reach learners across the globe; however, the extent of its global uptake is unknown.
Methods: This descriptive report evaluates the 2016 web analytics data from a convenience sample of FOAM blogs and websites with a focus on emergency medicine (EM) and critical care. The number of times a site was accessed, or “sessions”, was categorized by country of access, cross-referenced with World Bank data for population and income level, and then analyzed using simple descriptive statistics and geographic mapping.
Results: We analyzed 12 FOAM blogs published from six countries, with a total reported volume of approximately 18.7 million sessions worldwide in 2016. High-income countries accounted for 73.7% of population-weighted FOAM blog and website sessions in 2016, while upper-middle income countries, lower-middle income countries and low-income countries accounted for 17.5%, 8.5% and 0.3%, respectively.
Conclusion: FOAM, while largely used in high-income countries, is used in low- and middle-income countries as well. The potential to provide free, online training resources for EM in places where formal training is limited is significant and thus is prime for further investigation.