4
Aug

How Virtual Learning is Changing the Medical Field

In recent years, it’s become increasingly vital for medical professionals to participate in continuing education in order to stay current with the most up-to-date knowledge and newest procedures in their field of specialization. 

The medical profession has long since moved beyond the point at which medical professionals could keep in their heads all the knowledge necessary to provide top-flight medical care to their patients.

Every year, in fact, the canon of biomedical literature is increased by approximately 600,000 articles. 

At that rate, reading 2 articles a day would place a medical professional 800 years behind on the latest medical knowledge after just one year. Physicians have always needed to be lifelong learners, but that necessity has only grown with the passage of time. 

At the same time, the advent of COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the world of education in general. Millions of students and teachers, from grade school through grad studies and beyond, are charging full-steam into the world of online classes, as infection rates continue to move in the wrong direction across the country. 

As a result, virtual and online learning has suddenly leapt from a steadily rising phenomenon to holding a front-and-center position in the world of education for the foreseeable future, and the medical profession is no exception.

 

 

Of course, some fields are more conducive to virtual learning than others, and many aspects of medical training would seem to be less than ideal for a distance learning model. How do surgeons learn and practice new techniques, for example, when their classes are confined to a laptop on their desk at home? 

Fortunately, a variety of technologies have been developed over recent years to facilitate just such a learning model.

 

Computer-assisted learning

Perhaps the simplest and most familiar form of virtual learning, computer-assisted learning supplements in-person education via streamed lectures and other educational materials that can be viewed at home, leaving more time for hands-on, interactive sessions with the professor. 

This “flipped classroom” model of virtual education has been shown in studies to have a positive effect on student satisfaction, involvement, and knowledge acquisition.

 

Digital games

While pilots and astronauts have benefitted for years from flight simulator “games” as a vital part of their training process, the same has not historically been true of the medical profession. 

In recent years, however, the development of a variety of “serious games” has led to a uniquely fun and structured way of improving the techniques and hand-eye coordination of surgeons as well as improving the diagnostic skills of a wide variety of other types of physicians.

One particular game has become an important part of the training of geriatric medicine students at the Florida State University College of Medicine. ElderQuest is a role-playing game in which students must locate and nurse back to health a powerful wizard known as “The Gray Sage.” Experience has shown ElderQuest to have a positive effect on students’ understanding of the unique needs of elderly patients.

 

Mobile devices

Of course, no matter what you may be trying to learn or accomplish, it’s generally safe to say “there’s an app for that,” and the medical field is no exception. A wide and growing range of apps for both iPhone and Android are available to assist medical professionals in a variety of ways ranging from physiology and anatomy to diagnosis, treatment, and general problem solving skills.

 

Simulation

Taking a step beyond the games mentioned above, a number of methods for effectively simulating the patient care experience continue to be developed, and the rapid advancement of technology has only hastened their evolution. 

Early methods of patient care simulations involved the development of specialized medical mannequins on which medical students and professionals could practice their skills. From Resusci Anne (for CPR training) to Harvey (a cardiac examination simulator), these mannequins have become a vital tool in medical education, and recently, we at the American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery have taken it to the next step with the first-of-its-kind virtual Aesthetics 101 class.

AAAMS’s Virtual Aesthetics 101 course is an entirely virtual course in the basics of Aesthetic medicine and surgery augmented with hands-on experience via a medical mannequin and injection tools provided by AAAMS to each student.

 

 

AAAMS’s Hybrid Aesthetics 101 course is, as the name suggests, a blend of traditional and virtual learning. The didactic portion of the course takes place in a live, digital classroom. The hands-on learning experience takes place in small, socially-distanced groups at our headquarters in Beverly Hills with live injection models rather than mannequins. 

 

Only the beginning

And, of course, all this is only the beginning. 

Accelerating progress in the field of virtual and augmented reality along with such technology as Google Glass will no doubt make current technology look like Abraham Lincoln’s coal on the back of a shovel educational technique. 

As the volume of medical knowledge continues to increase exponentially, and with the current global medical challenges we continue to face, it’s good to know that educational technology is keeping up with it in order to keep our medical professionals at the top of their game.