How Technology is Evolving Healthcare Training
- Tech

How Technology is Evolving Healthcare Training

To say that healthcare, on the whole, has been evolving in strides might be an understatement. Between technological advancements and COVID-19’s global impact necessitating adaptation, the concept of digital health has thrived. Since its inception, it has entailed creative, ever-expanding applications of technology to deliver remote healthcare, enhance the patient-doctor bond, and more. On these foundations, addressing the needs of emerging healthcare providers, technology is evolving healthcare training, too, in equally remarkable ways.

Technology at the service of healthcare

Telehealth may be the most amazing product of technology in the healthcare service as regards expanding healthcare availability. Even in audio-only forms, as limited by patients’ and providers’ means, it has yielded demonstrable benefits. OCR Director Lisa J. Pino explains that “audio telehealth is an important tool to reach patients in rural communities, individuals with disabilities, and others seeking the convenience of remote options.”

Beyond patient-side improvements, this broader digital health transformation has ample benefits and offers newfound conveniences for the healthcare academia. In much the same way it has expanded accessibility for healthcare delivery, it did so for educational settings. It has offered tangible new opportunities, such as surgery simulations and minimizing risk. It has built new, wider classrooms with more engaging, computer-based coursework. Moreover, it has simply resonated more with younger, network-minded students. 

This may seem like a truism-adjacent platitude, but it remains very accurate. The emerging “net generation” has a tremendous affinity for such technologies and a considerable experiential advantage regarding adaptation. Technology has thus found fertile ground to demonstrate its benefits.

Ways technology is evolving healthcare training.

To confirm this broad claim, one needs to look no further than specific examples of technologies at work. In no particular order, the following practices and assets help augment the healthcare classroom in profound ways today.

Telehealth technology-focused coursework

The broader effect of technology in this regard can be found in simple technology-focused coursework within academia. For example, just last year, the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing began offering telemedicine classes, equipping students with the means to practice telehealth. Anna Beth Gilmore, an instructor at the IRBSON, notes how COVID-19 acted as an accelerant for such technologies and asserts that employers will value this type of knowledge.

She continues that these classes will remain permanent offerings of IRBSON’s curriculum, as their use will remain beyond COVID-19. Indeed, telemedicine has been around for some 30 years and is here to stay. In this regard, technology is shaping the content of courses, ensuring future practitioners “know how to utilize it in a quality way,” as Anna concludes.

Computer-Assisted Learning

Examples of technology enhancing education rather than informing its focus also abound. Among them is Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL), which employs computerized technologies to support learning. 

Far from a passing trend, CAL technology is substantively evolving healthcare training. A recent study, for example, confirmed that computer-based scenarios improved nursing students’ decision-making skills. One group was given a computer-based case study and another a paper-based case study, with the former finally reporting:

    • Enhanced fast decision-making
    • Empowering control over learning
    • Absence of the feeling of stress, nervousness, and of being lost

Beyond students, CAL also sees use by educators, including for administrative database management and medical informatics. For example, automating healthcare data entry processes has repeatedly been found to reduce error rates, enhance patient relationships, and more. While students may not reap this benefit immediately, earlier familiarization with such technologies should only help their future careers.

VR and AR

In addition, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) achieve a similar duality of applications. Both technologies have seen much mainstream use in recent years, especially in online gaming settings, so more professional applications of both seemed likely inevitable. Indeed, Phyllis A. Guze, M.D., lists three notable examples:

    • MIST VR (Minimally Invasive Surgery Trainer–Virtual Reality) is a VR program “designed to provide trainees with a realistic and assessable environment for developing skills.”
    • The LINDSAY Virtual Human Project, an anatomy and physiology simulation model which “provides an immersive approach to anatomy and physiology” through 3-D medical imaging
    • Second Life, an online virtual world that “currently features several medical and health education projects” and is seeing use by educators

In addition to promising projects through which technology is evolving healthcare training, VR and AR also start seeing use in patients. Making telehealth more immersive aside, which is becoming an increasingly alluring prospect, they may offer more benefits still. For example, a recent study found that Virtual Reality-Based Cognitive Training (VRCT), “combined with locomotor activity[,] can be used as a simultaneous intervention for cognitive rehabilitation and functional capacity improvement in older adults.”

Digital games

On the subject of games, as Second Life might be classified as one, digital games continue to see such uses in healthcare education as well. And as they do, they both enhance learning and increase the public’s engagement, hopefully informing patient engagement – all due to the appeal of gamification in educational settings and beyond.

As regards the former, results are already promising. For example, a recent NCBI systematic review found “a history of gaming and video-game-based training being beneficial in robotic surgery and laparoscopy, respectively,” following the hypothesis that video games can enhance students’ surgery skills.

Alongside these, Phyllis A. Guze offers an example of this practice at Florida State University College of Medicine. There, students in senior clerkships play ElderQuest, a role-playing game that helps them prepare for geriatric house calls. This method “had an effect not only on [the students’] learning but also on their understanding of the particular needs of the elderly population.”

Robotics

Finally, robotics is another notable example of how technology is evolving healthcare training and delivery. As AI and robotics push to the new era of Healthcare 5.0, they deserve a due mention.

Robotics have found a variety of applications in the field of healthcare for many years now. “From the operating table to the administrative offices,” EduMed identifies among them:

    • Medical robots, which reduce patient risk and enhance students’ experience
    • Robotics in the classroom for students and faculty who could not participate in person, as employed by Duquesne University
    • Pediatric robots controlled by instructors simulate real-life scenarios, as done by Bunker Hill Community College.

Literature on all such practices is by no means complete or undisputable. However, between established practices like remote learning and assets like medical robots, robotics arguably have a solid foundation to build on for years to come.

The “net generation” of healthcare practitioners

All such practices and initiatives enjoy notable success and should not be attributed to necessity. COVID-19 played a fundamental role in this acceleration, including the Internet of Things (IoT). However, technology is evolving healthcare training in a way that necessity alone arguably could not have. 

Rather, this is largely due to the affinities and sensibilities of an emerging generation of healthcare providers. TModelcites Warlick to explain this aptly:

“We need technology in every classroom and every student and teacher’s hand because it is the pen and paper of our time and the lens through which we experience much of our world.”

It is this “net generation” and its digital literacy which provided the fertile ground for this course, as Tojdel continues:

“The ‘net generation’ students have a specific skill set, meaning they are digitally literate, constantly connected, experiential and often enjoy collaboration with others in a well-structured, task-oriented environment.”

If only this distinction must be made to assert that this digital health transformation is both organic and sustainable. It is far from a passing trend; it is the natural evolution of an industry in line with a new generation of healthcare providers.

Conclusion

To summarize, technology has brought about drastic changes to healthcare. From telehealth and telemedicine to medical robots and VRCT, it is an undeniable evolution that benefits patients never like before. However, as it does, the technological tools it creates or refines require proficiency from healthcare providers to use efficiently. As a result, technology is evolving healthcare training to offer this necessary knowledge – all while enticing the “net generation.” Whether this will accelerate the advent of Healthcare 5.0 remains to be seen, but many will argue it is already doing so.

How Technology is Evolving Healthcare Training

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