Healthcare education has experienced significant changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; gaps in training and limited resources pushed medical educators to explore new innovative solutions. For example, the increased responsibilities and focus on patient care means that there are limited opportunities for the medical workforce to train while “on-the-job”. Additionally, limitations to physical presence throughout the pandemic encouraged the adoption of online learning platforms.
Other challenges, such as communication and student assessment, also helped shape the current trends in medical education, including new teaching models, remote patient consultations, and patient simulators. With these adjustments in mind, here are five med-ed trends to keep an eye on in 2023:
eLearning has become increasingly important over the years, which has inspired rapid advancements in how the service is delivered. The niche evolved from interactive CD-ROMs and PDF text files that dominated the 90s to scalable vector graphics, eBooks, and educational games in the 2000s. Presently, many products offer cutting-edge interactive technologies, such as virtual classrooms, gesture-based computing, and mobile apps. These technologies are catching on worldwide, including in developing countries where eLearning is increasing access to education and helping break geographical limitations.
Another outstanding advantage of eLearning in medical training is the provision of a safe setting for students to practice specific procedures without risking human life. For example, Safe Sedation Training employs online virtual learning environments, allowing medical students, interns, and nurses to practice how to provide moderate sedation to patients safely and correctly. Such technologies are increasingly used alongside other eLearning techniques to complement traditional learning setups.
This is where traditional in-person training is mixed with online training to reinforce the learning experience and provide learners with more flexibility. Such arrangements also provide a safer learning environment, increased student engagement, deeper comprehension, and more efficient time use for learners and instructors.
2. Integration of Virtual Reality
Interactive simulated experiences such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) bolster students’ understanding of complex health science topics. They put students in the middle of the action and provide access to a wide range of situations that may otherwise be impossible or too expensive to achieve in the real world.
AR is an interactive experience that combines real-world and computer-generated content. Although it started as an entertainment technology, it is now one of the most significant med-ed trends, helping students get accustomed to medical equipment, learn more about human anatomy, and master professional techniques.
For example, medical students and practitioners can use AR and its gamification properties to review various clinical cases and apply matching diagnostics and treatments. They may also replay the scenarios repeatedly, which will enable them to develop a deep understanding of medical procedures. The American Heart Association has integrated this type of learning in its ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Saving) education and recertification courses.
Much like AR, VR is about simulating an environment. However, rather than overlaying digital information onto real-world objects, it creates an immersive feel of a virtual world. It also leverages other advanced technologies such as haptic feedback, gesture tracking, and artificial intelligence. Some popular procedure using VR in healthcare training is when surgeons practice complex operations without risking lives.
Interestingly, the technology also supports learning as a team, which allows surgeons to practice alongside their assistants before putting patients under the knife.
The application of VR in medical training has become increasingly trendy thanks to its effectiveness. Virtual reality training studies established its numerous benefits, such as increased self-efficacy among trainees, higher confidence levels, reduced anxiety, increased motivation, and better data collection.
3. Accessibility of Expeditionary Learning
This training strategy emphasizes learning through action, teamwork, reflection, literacy, and character growth. It also encourages learning things beyond the confinement of the classroom. Expeditionary learning is among the biggest med-ed trends of the year as the industry prioritizes actual practice over theory.
For example, healthcare simulation software allows teachers to show procedures in class. Nurses following expeditionary learning, for instance, try to perform simple techniques in class and not just in the hospital. This way, study centers are decongested, and students waiting to garner clinical experience have more opportunities to get their target hours.
4. Data Standardization
Advancements in digital technologies afford opportunities for data collection and sharing. Data standards are created to ensure that all parties use the same rules that allow storing, sharing, and interpreting of information. This is a big step for medical education, allowing students and their institutions access to a variety of information as well as more possibilities for taking part in international science projects and exchanging experience. Learning management systems have improved inter-communication capabilities, through the use of modern web-based communication protocols such as the Experience API (xAPI) and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI). These communication protocols are designed to securely exchange learner data, scores, and learning content.
Data standardization helps improve training quality, and patient care quality, boost operational efficiency, and cut costs. Moreover, since standardized data is easier to exchange and use, it promotes better decision-making during training and practice, leading to improved patient outcomes.
5. Learning with Human Patient Simulators
While the COVID-19 pandemic reduced in-person learning opportunities, many medical programs continued to provide critical education and training with human patient simulators, by allowing small groups to train in simulated patient environments. A high-fidelity simulator is a full-body mannequin with realistic anatomy and physiologic responses, which may be programmed to mimic situations that are dangerous for the patient but occur rarely or infrequently. These simulators allow a patient care provider or a care team to repeatedly practice their skills and employ safety protocols for a particular scenario, such that they are prepared when they experience it in their clinical practice. Many programs took note of this ability to continue high-quality education and are working on adapting their learning programs to include this venue of teaching.
The realism that patient simulators offer can range from a room with minimal setup (e.g., a conference room) to an environment that allows one to be immersed in the learning situation. Simulations can even occur in situ, within a clinical setting (e.g., in an unused operating theater at a hospital), so that learners can work within the real clinical environment and use the equipment that is typically available to them.
In conclusion, the use of eLearning, blended learning, virtual reality technologies, and human patient simulators, as well as the implementation of expeditionary learning and data standardization have all worked to increase MedEd access for learners. Students, graduates, nurses, and doctors who use these new technologies and approaches to medical training gain a vital competitive advantage. Overall, advanced medical educational programs increase learning outcomes for medical students, improve the quality of care, and reduce the risk to human life during training, internship, and practice.