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Life in the fast lane – the acceleration of e-learning in health

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The world of healthcare was turned upside down at the start of the global pandemic. Professionals had no choice but to embrace innovative technology and e-learning platforms to continue critical treatment. Saheed Rashid, managing director of BXTAccelyon tells Health Tech World how frontline staff learned to upskill

The impact of COVID-19 on healthcare services has presented unprecedented demands on both resources and front line staff. With social distancing measures in place, an increasing backlog of unseen patients and postponed elective procedures, healthcare settings have yet been able to return to normal.

However, the rapid implementation of digital solutions, such as remote monitoring, telehealth, e-learning and Artificial Intelligence have allowed consultations, diagnosis and treatment to continue in a triaged and streamlined way. E-learning has an under-exploited potential to support health workforce capacity and empower professionals to take charge of their learning, especially in areas such as radiology, where there is a recognised shortage of skills.

Advancement of Medical Education

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in healthcare, but for this to continue in the future, a modern healthcare system also requires a contemporary education and training system. As a result of COVID-19, e-learning has become a vital tool to continue access to training and educational resources in healthcare, while physical courses are put to a halt. This will continue to accelerate, as already proven with recent research revealing that the ‘e-learning for healthcare’ search term saw the biggest year-on-year growth in the UK at 97.14 per cent from January to April 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

E-learning technologies offer students and healthcare professionals alike the opportunity to take advantage of a more flexible and personalised learning approach, putting them at the forefront of their own education and continuous training. In order for healthcare professionals to scale up, particularly during challenging times where more NHS staff are needed now than ever, individuals can utilise multimedia and interactive self-assessments from the comfort of their own home. There are also many benefits for educators, as it provides them with real-time, actionable data to accurately measure the user’s progress, as well as allowing them to collaborate with one another.

More importantly, previous studies have found many in favour of the online way of health and social care learning compared to traditional classroom settings. It was found that ‘trainees prefer technology-associated modalities that offer learning material that is interactive, reputable, simple, pragmatic, and coupled with relevant feedback. Innovations like virtual reality and simulations effectively increase knowledge, performance skills, and team communication through realistic clinical cases.’

Self Learning Tools

With the acceleration of e-learning, both new and established companies are entering the market. Due to the global emergency created by COVID-19, real-time training is critical for effective response, which is why the World Health Organization, for example, immediately created online learning resources for health professionals and the public for the outbreak of coronavirus.

To better improve patient care in modern times, continual innovative efforts between educators and trainees remain essential for both exploiting technology’s potential and improving patient pathways.

By implementing e-learning digital solutions, such as the MRI PRO platform, urology teams can improve their diagnosis interpretation skill; which is vital, as Cancer Research UK warned that nearly 25,000 cases of cancer had gone undiagnosed after almost 2.5 million people failed to be screened, tested or treated, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

This subscription-based e-learning platform is a leading prostate MRI online training course, which has been designed and developed by a global team of expert MRI urologists and radiologists. Healthcare professionals and trainees can test themselves on 300 of the highest quality histology-verified prostate MRI cases in order to improve their diagnostic skills. The MRI scan has been recognised as a crucial part of the diagnostic process of prostate cancer detection, which means that demand for experienced professionals in accurately interpreting and reporting MRI scans is accelerating – so such solutions are vital to address this global need.

Real-time feedback and collaboration are vital within e-learning, and in MRI PRO, users have access to world experts in prostate MRI, who are available to provide specialist feedback on how they did, as well as the opportunity to ask any questions. Additionally, the platform provides users with a performance review over time, with a percentage score of correct answers for the last 20 and 50 cases reviewed. Offering this active and learner-centred approach to learning allows healthcare professionals to gain the necessary experience to up-skill themselves in MRI scans, which aims to overall improve the safety, precision and efficiency of prostate cancer biopsy and patient experience.

Alleviating the Challenges

In order for e-learning platforms to be of most value, the collaboration between experts and their trainees is imperative. For example, within the MRI PRO, the main risks associated with the platform would be an inaccurate interpretation of the scans. However, these problems are mitigated by having experts in the field available to provide feedback, support the trainee during the programme and answer any questions they may have.

Of course, with all types of learning, the success and usefulness of such platforms relies on the accountability of the learners and/or teachers. Interventions which lack relevance or interactivity are viewed less favourably, highlighting the need for resources to be engaging and realistic. With no face-to-face interaction and lack of hands-on activities, this pathway of education may not be suitable for all healthcare professionals, such as those who learn better in physical environments. Nonetheless, the benefits of e-learning for the majority, especially within a socially-restricted world, must be acknowledged.

Additionally, due to the online nature of digital technology, the information processed is stored online, whether it is within the network or on the cloud. This can create risks of data protection and confidentiality, particularly with patient privilege. But, with the right security precautions and tools in place, these cyber threats can be minimised. The MRI scans within the MRI Pro are both anonymised and non-specific to any clinician’s hospital, which eliminates any issues of patient confidentiality when using this platform. As an additional layer to the security infrastructure, e-learning tools should be password-protected when the user logs in, so that the unique portal can only be accessed by the trainee.

Conclusion

With the current momentum of e-learning technology, this is only likely to increase in a post-pandemic future, as online educational resources become a priority in modern medical and healthcare training. It is now critical for many health organisations to understand and explore the range of options available to benefit from the quality and breadth of e-learning.

E-learning digital tools, such as MRI PRO, can help to overcome the challenges presented to the NHS during the pandemic, restricting the access to medical education, allowing healthcare trainees and professionals to continue to educate themselves and extend their skill set online, ensuring the ongoing effective diagnosis and treatment of patients with critical illnesses.

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