Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Health + Tech | Time for more remote continuing education for medical professionals

Published:Sunday | September 6, 2020 | 12:09 AM
“Students in online courses had better outcomes than those who only received classroom instruction” - trainingindustry.com
“Students in online courses had better outcomes than those who only received classroom instruction” - trainingindustry.com

Continuing education is very important in the field of medicine. The medical professional is usually hard-pressed to find the time to dedicate to face-to-face sessions and may therefore appreciate a mix of options. Surely, there are instances where courses can be completed online. However, there is need for more of these, especially now that face-to-face interaction has been largely restricted and events have mostly been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conferences and symposia that would normally happen over the past months have been cancelled and there is no telling when we will be able to resume these to allow persons to have face-to-face education and learning session that could be used towards their continuing medical education credits.

The idea is for health professionals to do continuing medical education to upgrade their skills and knowledge in an ever-changing field that develops through the use of more intricate technology. Given the present circumstances, where continuing education for the health professionals has also been affected, perhaps in the same way as colleges who are now offering more online courses, more of these sessions should be done online.

The World Health Organization encourages continuing education for every level of health professionals given the frequent developments, the level of risk and the requirement for precision in this field. This, it says, is essential for both personal and professional growth.

There are benefits to both face-to-face and online learning. “For example, while online tools provide the benefits of a self-paced environment for learning, conferences allow discussion and generation of new ideas” (WHO.int). The point here is that both these strategies have a place in continuing medical education despite the more widespread use of the traditional face-to-face sessions.

According to trainingindustry.com, “a report from the US Department of Education, which analysed a variety of studies comparing e-learning with face-to-face instruction, found that students in online courses had better outcomes than those who only received classroom instruction. Older learners in particular fared especially well with digital education.” (https://trainingindustry.com/articles/e-learning). This is ideal for medical professionals whose schedules can mean that they have much less time to dedicate to classroom sessions and conferences. Online learning and virtual conferences can fill some of that gap.

MARKET RESPONSE

The medical profession has been steadily moving towards incorporating more and more technology in its operations – from telemedicine to virtual and augmented reality tools that enhance the patient experience to fully digital practices which include electronic medical records and other tools that improve the overall experience for the professionals and their patients.

The market has been responding to these developments. For example, Wolters Kluwer offers Lippincott, an electronic learning programme dedicated to nurses’ education. “Lippincott offers clinical and simulation solutions for EHR training, virtual simulations, and evidence-based answers and guidance at point-of-learning and point-of-care.” (https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/solutions/lippincott-nursing-faculty). This is all online and includes ‘real world clinical patient scenarios and exercises’.

E-integrity.org in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners provides similar online learning resources for doctors. One is the ‘e-GP’ which covers “all aspects of primary care, from pregnancy, through to palliative care, intellectual disabilities, trauma, consulting skills, clinical supervision and physical examinations” (https://www.eintegrity.org/e-learning-healthcare-course).

It may take some time to fully adapt to an electronic and digital world in everything that we do, but it may be time to consider offering much more fully remote continuing education for medical professionals as a solid option along with the various face-to-face sessions available. This period has demonstrated the importance of having a backup plan and more specifically, a virtual or remote one.

The usual seminars, workshops and conferences had to be cancelled because of COVID-19, so there has to be ways for medical professionals to be able to continue to have access to the information and education they would have got from these sessions to ensure that they are up to date with the happenings and developments of the medical world and their CME points.

All over the world, the healthcare industry is fast adopting technology in every aspect of its operations. If we don’t quickly adjust to these changes, we may be left behind and find it difficult to catch up.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com