How Mobility Can Deliver Better Education and Patient Care

According to industry experts, we are in the midst of a revolution in medical education.

Educators from The Ohio State University Medical Center, Emory University, Northeastern University, and San Diego State University recently shared their experiences on how mobility is changing the way universities work. The talks were held simultaneously during AcademiX 2011, a video conference that brought presenters and audiences together into one live event.

Catherine Lucey, MD

Dr. Catherine Lucey, interim dean and vice dean for education at Ohio State’s College of Medicine, discussed how mobility can deliver better education and patient care. Her talk, What Angry Birds can tell us About Educating the Next Generation of Physicians, contrasted medical education "then and now."

According to Lucey, a fascinating challenge in medical education is the need to not only teach students to understand medicine as we understand it today, but also to help them develop the skills and habits of the mind to continuously learn over a career that may span four decades.

What Angry Birds Can Teach us About Technology in Medical Education

One hundred years after Abraham Flexner proposed a radical redesign of medical education to increase the scientific rigor of the education of the nation’s physicians, medical schools across the country are realizing that a new revolution is needed. Concerns about runaway costs, variable quality, inconsistent patient satisfaction, and persistent health disparities suggest that we can do better.

What has remained constant over the past 100 years is the need for medical schools to help incoming students undergo the transformation from undergraduate student to a patient's preferred physician in the short span of four years. This transformation requires not only the mastery of extensive biomedical science content, but also clinical skills like accurate physical diagnosis and history taking.

The fact that the duration of medical school hasn’t changed in over a century, despite dramatic advances in our understanding of disease and therapeutics suggests that medical schools need educational methods that increase the efficiency of learning as well as strategies to increase access to information.

What we need is a way for mobile technology to increase efficiency in learning, not just efficiency in information seeking. This is where the Angry Birds analogy comes in.

Lucey explains that deliberate practice involves identifying a series of developmental hurdles that have to be navigated on the way to expertise and then setting up the practice and coaching environment to navigate those hurdles. Once a chess master successfully wins a game, he looks for a game that is a bit harder than the last and then practices and accepts coaching until he masters that harder game, and so on and so forth.

She says the critical elements of deliberate practice are progressively difficult challenges, time to practice at each stage, and coaching to help the learner both develop strategies and to let them know when they have mastered a given step.

What keeps a learner going? Lucey says the individual is motivated by the opportunity to see progress towards mastery.

Our call is to increase efficiency in learning, not just efficiency in information seeking, to ultimately create an expert physician

Mobile devices and interactive applications can serve as the sources of "gated challenges" and as an electronic coach. You can’t go to level 2 without completing level 1. The skills you learn at level 1 help you navigate level 2, but the complexity increases and forces you to learn new skills through exploration and reinforcement.

How could an Angry Birds platform increase the efficiency and effectiveness of medical education?

Mobile applications can be constructed to give the students a myriad of cases to practice with and could be constructed to tier those cases according to complexity. Rather than leaving a student’s practice case to the luck of the draw (whatever patient happens to come into the clinic or the emergency room that night), the student would have a series of progressively challenging educational tasks to accomplish. The interactive nature of these mobile app devices can be leveraged to give instant coaching to the student about right and wrong interpretations.

In an effort to improve the quality of education and patient care, Ohio State’s medical students have been using the Apple iPod Touch since 2007 to assist with their academic and clinical activities. Each student receives a device equipped with medical software programs developed by faculty at Ohio State’s College of Medicine.

At the bedside, medical students are answering patient questions with instant access to the most recent journal articles and medical literature. Furthermore, patients can view videos of surgical procedures and medical treatments and know what to expect, lessening the fear of the unknown.

Lucey concluded by saying, “Our call is to increase efficiency in learning, not just efficiency in information seeking, to ultimately create an expert physician.”

To view Lucey’s keynote presentation, visit education.apple.com/academix. AcademiX was part of the Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Innovate week.

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