Supplementary online medical education

The conventional context of teaching and learning is proving to be a challenge today. The reason being the high demand for highly trained professionals and the advanced amount of knowledge and skill each average professional is expected to possess. Our current reliance on classrooms, work places and faculty are unable to meet the learning outcomes of the scale and quality we require.

While this problem is widespread, imparting and learning professional knowledge is subject to additional challenges. While a good faculty is critical, it is extremely difficult to find one. The value of education as a primary professional choice is also losing its respect and charm. Thus there exists an obvious need for much introspection here. Given that the reality of the situation is that, it will take many years to increase the number of quality faculty members and keeping in mind the present demand, it is important to find ways in which ICT and technology aides can be effectively integrated into education to improve scale and quality of learning.

The rush of entrepreneurship towards e-learning is bound to see many casualties. The key seems to be working with all stakeholders, and taking the entire ecosystem forward. This is particularly true of mainstream medical education. Supplementary medical education by way of continuous professional development is a good place to start.

Non-degree refresher programmes and periodic updates are easier to handle. Often, one need not do much beyond videos, case discussions, and simple self-assessments, complemented when necessary possible, with some hospital rotations and online mentorship.

Usually, content for ICT-based offering is crowdsourced, edited and enhanced. A culture of researching and documenting, besides setting and following formatting standards is critical. This is rather weak in the Indian context. Also, a culture of contributing to education — of leading practitioners lending a helping hand to colleges and their cause and the development of a profession.

An important challenge faced is the discomfort that the older medical professionals seem to have with Information Technology. This discomfort is a limiting factor in the use of new ICT-based tools and applications.

While several programmes need to be run to motivate and teach IT to practising doctors, IT must also be introduced in undergraduate medical education. To a lesser extent, an additional challenge is high quality bandwidth. Access across India will prove vital. More energetic TV programming via a dedicated educational channel could be an additional option. 

Medical network
The proposed National Medical College Network is an important step forward. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is implementing a green field project on e-health, including telemedicine on National Medical College Network (NMCN) for interlinking the Medical Colleges across the country with the purpose of e-education and National Rural Telemedicine Network for e-healthcare delivery.

A considerable amount of effort has already been undertaken to give a shape to the project. Locations for the national resource centres and regional resource centres for NMCN have been defined. and the medical colleges to be linked to these five regional centres have also been worked out.

Communication from MOHFW had been sent to all the states and UTs to provide the list of medical colleges to be networked and nominate a faculty member from each medical college as Nodal Officer for Telemedicine. High speed optic fibre-based internet bandwidth been deployed under National Knowledge Network (NKN) Project in as many as 150 medical colleges around the country. Many medical institutions have migrated to NKN backbone to enhance their capacity of telemedicine activity using telemedicine platform deployed by Central and State government agencies.

Besides live transmission of lectures, procedures and events of some significance to undergraduation or continuing education, the attempt seems to be to edit, enhance, tag and warehouse such materials for imported shelflife, relevance and continuous access. Live, interactive short programmes can also be conducted from one or a few locations, and transmitted to several others across the counting and beyond. It’s a good way of combining ICT with physical, local/regional delivery.

 (The writer is chairman, Medisys Edutech)

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