3 ways technology is changing medical education

Robert M. Wah, MD , Former President

In order for tomorrow’s physicians to practice at the peak of their abilities, medical education must be bold and innovative, moving beyond entrenched curricula and pedagogical approaches to meet the needs and best develop the skills of a new generation of students. With National Health IT Week upon us, now is a good time to remember that harnessing technology is a crucial part of this push for change in med ed.

As part of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, which is working with medical schools in a national consortium, a number of medical schools have developed leading-edge technologies that could be implemented on a wider scale and begin to transform physician training.

These diverse technology projects showcase the wide variety of ways in which technology can enhance the student experience and ultimately improve patient care.

The electronic health record (EHR) is an example of both the tremendous possibilities and the challenges in bringing sophisticated technology into physician practices. Students at Indiana University School of Medicine (IU) are getting an enhanced, hands-on experience with EHR technology to better understand its strengths and weaknesses and to refine their clinical decision-making.

IU cloned its existing EHR system and scrambled patient data to create the teaching version, or tEHR. The tEHR is enriched with educational content, in the form of videos, text or links to other material. If a student orders a test that the EHR recognizes could cause patient harm, the system triggers a warning and delivers the additional, explanatory content to the student.

Also, IU students using the tEHR have the ability to compare their decisions to those made by clinicians in the field who were caring for the actual patients.

By working with the tEHR, students begin to get a sense of the value and limitations of EHRs and some of the issues confronting physicians related to this type of technology, such as meeting meaningful use criteria or utilizing ICD-10.

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is bringing GPS to medical education. That is, the school is leveraging data to enable personalized learning routes. It is doing so through an integrated learning platform known as VSTAR. The software allows for intense tracking of student competencies.

This rich data tracking is meant to support Vanderbilt students in becoming master adaptive learners, who can engage in guided self-assessment to continually refine their leaning objectives as they develop long-term goals and recognize patient needs. By working with a coach to evaluate their progress on a comprehensive learning portfolio, students at Vanderbilt can determine what areas to work on and whether they have achieved the competencies needed to advance to the next level of training.

Because VSTAR also provides data on classes and groups, leaders at Vanderbilt have described it as a way to GPS the school’s programs and keep them on track, in addition to advancing learning for individual students.

Putting students on the path to becoming master adaptive learners also is a prime objective at my own alma mater, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) School of Medicine. I’m proud how OHSU has given new meaning to the phrase, “There’s an app for that.”

The school has created a mobile app through which students can enter data about their clinical experiences into the REDEI system (Research and Evaluation Data for Educational Improvement). This means that students can tap and enter data on the spot in clinical settings rather than having to report it after the fact.

The REDEI system serves as a hub for this information and other data related to student performance. Students and coaches can refer to this performance snapshot to reflect on areas for improvement and customize curricula accordingly.

Using real clinical data from a statewide repository of 2.5 million patient-level records, as well as local data from NYU Langone Medical Center’s EHR, New York University School of Medicine developed two educational tools enabling and inspiring students to follow their passions and delve deeper into research.

By sorting the data according to fields such as diagnosis code or setting, students are able to get a clearer picture of particular patient populations and begin to ask—and answer—questions related to their area of interest, be it adolescent medicine or substance abuse.

NYU also created a simulated health care group consisting of three different types of practices. With access to all the real-world health data through the school’s technology tools, students in the simulation are asked to propose a quality improvement project for a $1 million grant.

These impressive technology initiatives are only the start. Educators also came together last week to learn more about these and other innovative programs at ChangeMedEd 2015, a national conference sponsored by the AMA that brought together leaders in med ed. Get a glimpse into the key innovations and solutions presented at the conference.

Later this fall, we’ll announce the selection of up to 20 schools that will join the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium starting Jan. 1. Each school will receive three-year grants based on innovative education projects underway at their local institutions.

To transform medical education, stakeholders need to come together to learn about best practices that have achieved the most promising results in cutting-edge, technology-driven programs. The AMA remains committed to furthering this collaboration.