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From a Distance: e-learning Solutions for Medical Training

Healthcare March 1, 2018

Distance learning and remote training for medical students and seasoned providers alike can be performed remotely using e-learning or distance technology solutions, impacting the delivery and quality of health care.

Medical professionals in remote areas or developing countries can now communicate with world-class experts and receive a level of training and guidance they couldn’t access before.

Providers in more obscure fields with only a limited number of experts can save the time and expense of traveling to learn from them in person; they can learn from them remotely instead. And providers in every discipline and part of the world can more easily and conveniently complete continuing education requirements with online courses and other distance learning tools.

Health-care facilities, including medical, nursing and pharmacy schools, and hospitals, should consider investing in technology including software solutions that enable live streaming, audio capture, and simulation training.

Distance Learning for Medical Students

Distance and virtual learning can help students practice techniques and respond to scenarios in a controlled, risk-free environment.

The application of distance learning in the health-care industry has progressed considerably over the years, and yet, there's still much to learn, especially in schools and universities. Although, much is already being done to make advancements in care.

At the pharmacy school at Keele University in the United Kingdom, students gain experience treating rare conditions by interacting with avatars that represent human patients.

Using voice recognition technology or by typing questions into a computer program, pharmacists interact with the “patients” to treat any number of potentially life-threatening conditions, allowing them to practice skills that would be difficult to develop safely in real-world scenarios.

“Patients” also provide feedback to the students the same way live patients would, so students can identify areas to improve and enhance even before they treat real patients in the real world.

Distance Learning for Health-care Providers

Veteran providers, especially those in developing countries, can also benefit from continuing education and training provided in a distance learning format. Health needs across the globe require a well-trained provider workforce armed with the latest understanding and techniques, and virtual distance learning is increasingly the best way to deliver that training.

For instance, the International AIDS Society, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Geneva, Switzerland, used digital technologies in a distance learning approach to launch both a mentoring and professional development program. The goal was to help international AIDS researchers improve the abstracts of their scientific papers to increase the chances of their work being presented at international conferences.

Benefits of the virtual programs included:

  • Increased knowledge sharing
  • Doubling of active mentors from 42 to 80
  • Mentor/mentee pairings based on areas of expertise
  • Improved cooperation with partner organizations

Technology solutions employed included email, Skype, Microsoft SharePoint, and instant messaging features to manage communication and data collection to monitor quality.

Distance learning for health-care providers in particular also helps them keep their skills and knowledge current and ensures they can keep pace with changes, enhancements, and improvements in health-care delivery.

If a new technique for placing heart stents is developed in France, cardiologists virtually anywhere in the world can use distance learning tools such as 4K recording in the operating room to observe the technique and start implementing it right away.

Likewise, if researchers in Zimbabwe think they’ve made a breakthrough, they can use collaboration and video streaming technology to share and validate their findings with colleagues in the U.S.

As changes in health care occur, digital tools for distance learning ensure those changes can be learned and adopted by providers all over the world in real-time.

Technology Solutions to Support Distance Learning

As the number of distance learning applications increase, so do the available technologies to support them. If you embark on a health care distance learning or telemedicine overhaul, here are some key tools to consider.

  1. Live streaming. Whether it’s a medical conference keynote speech, an active triage situation or a simulated surgery, live streaming allows distance learners to “be there” without actually being there. Live streaming usually requires hardware and software solutions as well as network bandwidth to support the stream.

  2. Speakers and microphones. Not even the best teaching is any help if it can’t be heard or understood. Equipping lecture halls, training rooms and other learning spaces with high quality, multi-directional microphones will ensure live audio is captured clearly no matter where presenters are standing and no matter what they are doing.

  3. Simulation technology. Avatars like the ones used at Keele University or training mannequins that simulate a patient’s vital signs, medical conditions and response to treatment help students learn in a risk-free environment. Many simulation tools, including mannikins, capture outcome data that can be used for follow-up teaching and training.

  4. Video recording capabilities. Much like poor audio is of little use to distance learners, so is poor video recording. Especially for precision exercises such as surgery, high definition video recording capabilities are essential for distance learners hoping to learn skills and techniques by watching.

  5. Control systems. Whatever solution or combination of solutions you are using, the control system is a centralized point of operation and management for all your hardware and software solutions. Control systems are particularly important for collaborative AV systems using multiple interdependent tools.

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