Educational institutions from elementary schools to universities are increasingly incorporating new forms of technology into their classrooms. Medical education in particular seems to be a focus for innovators and entrepreneurs who are looking to disrupt the traditional “see one, do one, teach one” model of medical schools, which has been shown to have a positive impact patient safety. Here’s a look at three ways that technology is changing medical education.
Reference Apps and Tools
Reference apps and tools include everything from online and mobile versions of textbooks and reference materials to tools that can suggest a list of potential ailments based on the answers to a few diagnostic questions.
Because this data is open source, the real innovation in this category is finding new ways for physicians to interact with the data or making it easier to access. This category is probably easiest to gain traction in as the tools fit into the existing medical system and the end user, the physician, would be the paying customer.
Simulations and Virtual Reality
Simulators and virtual reality machines, which require a significant amount of time and resources to develop, effectively add a “practice one/many” step in between the “see one” and “do one” steps of the traditional model. There are many products that exist across many medical disciplines including a pregnancy and delivery simulator and a laparoscopic surgery virtual reality machine.
The biggest advantage with these tools is that different test cases or extreme situations can be simulated on the machine so students are exposed to a broad range of conditions as opposed to just the ones they see at the clinic. Adoption for these products can be more difficult as they often involve a large capital purchase by the school or training facility. Use of these machines also has to be adapted into the existing curriculum.
Competency Based Training
The final category is not really a group of products, but more of a paradigm shift from the traditional model of medical education to a competency based approach. Currently, students are required to complete a set amount of time within a residency program during which they will engage with real patients and ideally learn all of the skills needed to practice medicine. In competency based training, a core set of skills are outlined and students are assessed to make sure they meet a certain level of competence.
There are some challenges with this type of system including who determines the competencies and how do you make sure they are objective. It appears that these questions are slowly being answered as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has developed the competencies for family medicine and has started to develop an implementation plan to roll this out among all schools.
As this implementation progresses, a new category of products to aid both students and administrators with this change will likely emerge.