Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 23, 2020

How Technology is Disrupting Medical Education

Now more than ever we're experiencing how technology can disrupt and benefit our lives at rates of advancement that are possibly unprecedented.

These shifts can be seen in various aspects of the education sector as well, not least medical education. At the broader level, medical schools and institutions are adapting their curriculums in view of the changing technological landscape, and patient simulation is becoming more realistic.

Even big tech is getting in on the game with Apple and Google establishing segments with a bigger focus on health care.

It may come as no surprise, therefore, that medical students are trading in their university courses for online learning instead. This new normal has created fertile ground for a raft of online providers, like Lecturio, UWord and Amboss to name a few, that are harnessing advanced technologies to help students memorize the copious amounts of material they need to learn for hard exams like the United States Medical Licensing Examination — USMLE.

What is disruptive tech?

To understand more about these changes in medical education, let's consider what we mean by disruptive tech.

Disruptive technology is one that displaces what's already on the market, giving way to a completely new industry.

For education, disruptive technologies have taken the form of online learning, cloud services, chat-based collaboration platforms, competency-based education, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.

How disruptive technology is improving medical education?

All of these innovations have improved how we learn or are currently breaking new ground in the education space. To understand how, let's consider each technology in turn.

Online learning

The advent of online learning has meant that education can now be accessed by a wider net. People who have children, older men and women, people with disabilities, or those in full-time employment, all may have challenges physically attending classes but online learning can be accessed from anywhere. You can also pay and book courses remotely, and sometimes carry out the course objectives according to your own schedule.

Cloud services

Cloud services are another new application that has enhanced learning. Cloud computing, in general, has increased accessibility, making it easier to share notes, disseminate lesson plans, and even devise a universal and uniform filing structure. It can aide collaborative projects as well allowing more than one user to contribute to and edit documents. Some cloud services have also been devised to provide essential details for courses so you can quickly assess whether a particular set of modules is appropriate for you. For instance, you can gauge duration, price, prerequisites, and lesson programs or have the application recalculate things like cost or eligibility with changing variables. You might even be able to select aides or teaching assists according to any special needs you have.

Chat-based collaboration platforms

Chat-based collaboration platforms take communication solutions, like Slack or Trello, to the next level. Including a video element allows participants to be exposed to a broader perspective by enabling global presenters to provide video content or telecommute for panel discussions. Combined with the chat element, it makes the experience more interactive, including space for Q&A.

Competency-based education (CBE)

Competency-based education (CBE) is another type of disruptive learning solution aimed at drawing in a wide specter of students. The underlying presumption to this approach is that all students are at different points on a spectrum of learning. They absorb information at different speeds and some excel better with certain learning methods while others have an aptitude for different approaches. A CBE programme thus takes these differences into account and provides for adaptability within it. This would ensure students remain more engaged, avoids students duplicating their knowledge acquisition, and prevents some students from feeling as though they are lagging behind. This approach is based on individual learning needs. By using data analytics, dashboards are produced to assess progress and outcomes, moving away from the traditional model of grading.

Case study example

One example of a CBE program is Lecturio, an online tool that provides learning solutions for medical students with short, concise, and easy-to-follow video lectures, but with integrated questions that deliver an interactive learning dimension. It also has an exam-simulating interface so that students can become familiar with a test situation. There's also a tutor mode to help explain complex concepts. The aim is for learning to be adaptable according to the student's own pace and level.

Virtual reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Then there are more cutting edge models such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

VR and AR are now no longer relegated only to the gaming world, they make the educational process more interactive as well by allowing the student to insert themselves into scenarios. For instance, with VR, you can immerse yourself in history, or see learning come to life for archeology, physics, and even medicine, as memorizing organ names and illnesses is not all medical students have to do. Observation plays a key role in medical education.

VR is not currently widely used as it is prohibitively expensive but that might change in the future. The more VR technology is adopted in learning, the more affordable it will become.

AR is more affordable, however, and it still adds an extra layer of information to your existing reality, so you can experience more 3D modeling, and teachers can create elaborate and engaging presentations. It's accessible with a smartphone and tablet, which are also in common possession now.

AI's use in education is to utilize algorithms that help personalize the learning experience. Machine learning can analyze how learners consume information and assess what their particular needs are. And there are already systems in place for personalized tutoring and AI tools that can moderate discussions.

The thing with machine learning is it gets smarter every year too and one day it may be able to deliver instant feedback to students or analyze someone's potential for learning.

The benefits of disruptive technology

Overall, technology benefits us as it makes what we do easier, helps us advance further and it should make our lives more fulfilling. Educational technology certainly fulfills that brief.

By using any of the aforementioned methods you'll be able to record and share your learning materials, get personalized learning solutions, and get fast data, so you can inform your learning with analytics and progress evaluation that will put any medical student ahead of the curve in the heady space of medical education.

Written by D. A. Rupprecht 

Author Bio: In addition to his advocacy work, D. A. Rupprecht is an internationally-based freelance writer who writes about the juxtaposition between technology and society. He has also written novels that address societal inequality.

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