May 17 2018

Why Technology for Physician Education Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

Telemedicine and virtual reality tools enable high-level training while preparing providers for the future of care delivery.

Technology continues to change the way healthcare professionals deliver care to patients, enabling faster collaboration and improving workflow processes. Thanks to mobile devices and processes, such as secure text messaging, organizations today are better equipped to provide quality support to individuals with fewer inconveniences or interruptions.

At the same time, digital tools are also evolving the way clinicians hone their craft. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, for instance, uses telemedicine tools via Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) to connect university-based specialists with primary-care clinicians to allow for faster, more efficient knowledge sharing.

Telemedicine, though, represents just one of several ways technology is reshaping physician education.

For New Doctors, AR and VR Are Not Foreign Concepts

At the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, for instance, virtual and augmented reality are helping to train clinicians to “more skillfully handle delicate interactions with patients,” according to an article published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the organization, says such tools allow doctors, nurses and others to “mess up a bunch” prior to working in the trenches for real.

And because VR and AR are more prominent now than ever before, he says, incorporating the technology into a learning environment isn’t a foreign concept.

“We draw in a digital generation of young service members who are at home with this technology,” Rizzo says.

The MedStar Simulation Training & Education Lab (MedStar SiTEL) in Washington, D.C., also takes advantage of VR for training, using HTC Vive VR headsets to bring clinicians together in lifelike, 3D simulations of a modern emergency room. According to MedStar SiTEL Director William Sheahan, such efforts, so far, are proving to be “as good or better than traditional training methods.”

Other organizations benefitting from the use of such tools to better educate clinicians include Ponoma, Calif.-based Western University of Health Sciences, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the latter of which uses Microsoft’s HoloLens for anatomy and pharmacology training.

Improving the ‘Webside Manner’ of Clinicians

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 84 medical schools included telemedicine as a topic in required or elective courses in the 2016-17 academic year, up from 57 institutions in 2013-14. The goal, according to an article in AAMCNews, is to prepare future doctors to use telemedicine technology.

Dr. Rahul Sharma, associate professor of clinical medicine and emergency physician-in-chief at NewYork Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medicine, called learning telehealth skills “essential” to training new doctors, while Dr. Neal Sikka, associate professor of emergency medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, stressed the importance of clinicians learning better “webside manner.”

There’s really an art to providing a good video consultation that needs to be taught, just like we teach bedside manner and patient interviewing skills,” Sikka said.

And similar to how Nevada clinicians take advantage of Project ECHO, nurses and physicians at CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital in Sulphur Springs, Texas, are leveraging technologies from Access Physicians to learn new procedures and practice at the top of their licensure.

To better train tomorrow’s clinicians today, healthcare organizations must continue to develop strategies that emphasize technology, not as a luxury, but a necessity.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.


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