Because of the risks often involved within the medical profession, medical education and training must provide experiences that bring confidence and proficiency in carrying out necessary procedures. Although numerous technologies are currently involved in medical education and training, great strides are being made to further improve the education and training within the medical field.
Technology can greatly aide performance and instruction within the medical field, where the concept of “learning by doing” carries too much risk. While problem-based learning offers a good beginning for medical education, the nature of the positions these students will hold demands that technologies be developed, improved and utilized. Technologies currently being improved in the field will bring detailed change in medical education and training because of the sophistication of the technologies. Existing technologies being improved include: Web-based teaching, and real-time automated tools, including virtual reality and high-fidelity simulation programs. Using these technologies will enable students to learn by seeing detailed demonstrations and participating in virtual reality simulations, so that when they actually “do” the procedure on a patient, they have a higher level of proficiency, thus lowering the risks. This approach becomes particularly important with rare procedures, where these procedures can be completed over again and again in a virtual reality, despite the unavailability to perform the “real” procedure. (Vozenilek et al., 2004)
As simulations and virtual reality technology improve, medical students, residents, and other trainees will be able to complete very realistic procedures over and over again, possibly gaining great proficiency, before ever attempting the procedure on a real patient. Improving these processes should improve medical training and bring better results on the job. While great strides have been made in medical technologies and medical training technologies, there is a need for continual improvement, especially in virtual reality. Much of the current virtual reality currently in use utilizes computerize models, where even microscopic views are available. In addition, students can perform a full surgery using tools connected to a virtual reality program.
The following video provides a good example of how virtual reality can aid in medical training:
The use of virtual reality in the medical field goes beyond education and training. Virtual reality can also be used to treat phobias and numerous mental health issues, including bulimia (Gian, et al., 2013) and post-traumatic stress disorder, which bring a different side to this medical technology. It can be used for physicians to practice a difficult surgery beforehand or help the process with image-guided surgery (Szekely and Satava, 1999). Neurosurgeons especially benefit from virtual reality training and practice, where little room for error exists (Chan et al., 2013). Virtual reality can also aide in remote diagnosis for patients in remote areas or to help with specialty areas (Szekely and Satava, 1999). The more realistic the various aspects of virtual reality become, the better the training experiences. For example, the way tools behave in a virtual reality situation should be as close as possible to how they would behave in a real procedure.
Current simulation programs can imitate real-life situations quite accurately. Clinical problem-solving can also be used when using simulations, with computerized mannequins that can imitate numerous emergency situations. Simulations can also include aspects of virtual reality. The following video gives a helpful overview of simulation technologies currently in use:
Simulation-based medical education with deliberate practice has been found to bring better training results when compared to traditional clinical practices (McGaghie, et al., 2011, Singer, et al., 2012, Cook, et al., 2011). For example, one study found that first-year medical students trained with simulations performed significantly better than third-year medical students trained without simulations on clinical care competency (Singer, et al., 2012). Another study found that simulation-based medical education show significant improvements in knowledge, skills, and behaviors, while showing moderate improvements in patient-related outcomes (Cook, et al., 2011). Thus, the use of technology in medical education appears to bring a better overall situation in the medical field. As technologies for medical simulations improve, these positive affects may increase.
The technologies being used are quite impressive in their own right; however, possible advances in this field are many and can greatly improve education and training abilities. As an instructor or a student in the medical field, being open to using new technologies in the classroom or in clinical experiences will likely bring better outcomes for student abilities.
Chan, S, Conti, F, Salisbury, K, Blevins, N (2013). Virtual reality simulation in neurosurgery: Technologies and evolution. Neurosurgery: 72 (p A154-A164).
Cook, DA, et al. (2011). Technology-enhanced simulation for health professionals education: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Association: 306(9).
Gian, LC, et. al (2013). Virtual reality for enhancing the cognitive behavioral treatment of obesity with binge eating disorder: Randomized controlled study with one-year follow-up. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 15(6): e113.
McGaghie, WC, Issenberg, SB, Cohen, ER, Barsuk, JH, Wayne, DB (2011). Does simulation-based medical education with deliberate practice yield better results than traditional clinical education? A meta-analytic comparative review of the evidence. Academic Medicine: 86(6): 706-711.
Singer, BD, Corbridge, TC, Schroedl, CJ, Wilcox, JE, Cohen, ER, McGaghie, WC, Wayne, DB (2012). First-year residents outperform third-year residents after simulation-based education in critical care medicine. Simulation in Healthcare: The Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare: 8(2): 67-71.