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Wearables, machine learning & VR in medical training

Photograph by Giant Health

Medical education is on the brink of serious transformation as recent advancements are allowing future doctors to learn without having to leave the classroom. But do these innovative teaching methods stack up? And can digital education truly support the next generation of doctors? In the following blog we will be taking readers through an insightful presentation by Viraj Shah, President of Imperial College Surgical Society from Giant Health 2022 on ‘The Most Impactful Innovations in Undergraduate Medical Education & Training.’

We believe technological advancement is inevitable in many sectors and with wearable sensors being utilised by healthcare professionals to aid with remote-patient monitoring, it’s no surprise that wearable devices will be making their way into medical classrooms. Wearables have the potential to revolutionise healthcare and medical education by making it more interactive, engaging and personalised and we are excited to be part of the journey.

Read on to explore the most up-to-date innovative devices being adopted into classrooms and what key disruptors within health and technology are expected to accelerate in the next 20 years. To begin his presentation Shah also considered wearables and remote monitoring to be the next big players when it comes to medical education and training.

Wearable technology is designed to continuously monitor human behaviour and physical activity and is becoming more common for healthcare providers to use while treating patients. For example, there are some wearable technologies that providers send home with their patients to monitor their health and assist with at-home activities such as physical therapy, to collect detailed readings and more, remotely.

Alternatively, healthcare educators are “taking this technology into the classroom and clinical training environments.” Shah noted that some schools have been using wearable technology to broadcast a first person point of view or stream one procedure to a classroom full of students on campus or online in educational settings. Wearables can also be utilised by being placed on patients to allow instructors to see how medical students respond to and interact with them. Through this, instructors can help learners analyse their speech patterns, word choices, and empathy. “This new technology offers a great way for students to learn from their missteps or trials in both real or simulated settings.”

Shah explained that machine learning and AI in direct educational settings still has a long way to go but the increased use of these technologies in educational settings will “empower students to learn more about data science.” He went on to explain that only within the last few years medical schools have started to address the need for more training in AI before students graduate. Medical schools in America have developed strong initiatives; including projects and lab work aimed to incorporate specialised courses to meet this need. And more schools are beginning to recognise the need to further integrate alongside traditional memorisation based learning by using new technologies including AI.

From an analytics perspective, one of the key features in healthcare is that it can provide “a convenient way in managing how data is compiled, filed and shared.”

Shah went on to explain how analytics contribute greatly to the information college professors use in classrooms and in clinical settings. In a college and university environment, analytics have become a large part of the training format these days simply because they offer better preparation for students for the tech heavy related health curriculum that they will “inevitably enter in the future.”

With robotics, technologies are changing how students and professionals learn to take care of their patients. It’s clear that robotics have had a “significant impact in surgical training” but this has not been fully realised outside of the training scenario, explained Shah. Robotic surgery allows the surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control. This process is, reportedly, safer and improves patient recovery according to a first of it’s kind study by scientists at UCL and the University of Sheffield. From learning about the practical side of patient care, healthcare students can obtain a more “authentic hands-on experience” from robotics without putting any human wellbeing at risk.

Shah added that community colleges across the United States are using a paediatric robot to simulate real life scenarios commonly encountered by nursing professionals. The robot is controlled by the instructor who can incorporate any change or challenge at the press of a button to better prepare students for the real scenario.

To conclude this part of the presentation Shah highlighted the key reasons to support increasing innovation in medical education in an impactful way, as well as the challenges. Some of the reasons he highlighted included that controlled environments equal no risks towards human patients or participants. It also allows repetition and practice so that students can take advantage of the repeatability of the educational techniques.

However, there are still challenges for these innovations as the technology is still premature and there is insufficient research to back quite a few of the novel tools. Additionally, stakeholders and decision makers are often skill short as there is a lack of understanding of the necessary skills and physicians have many concerns. Some concerns may include the erosion of basic clinical skills and neglecting a generous approach.

Shah shared a diagram of what advancements are deemed to be the biggest disruptors in the next 20 years within healthcare and technology. Growth is evidently continuing to accelerate with the top ten areas as follows:

  1. Telemedicine

  2. Smartphone apps

  3. Sensors and wearables for diagnostics and remote monitoring

  4. Reading the genome

  5. Speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP)

  6. Virtual and augmented reality

  7. Automated image interpretation using AI

  8. Interventional and rehabilitative robotics

  9. Predictive analytics using AI

  10. Writing genome

He noted that the majority are “very applicable in education and training” specifically noting, telemedicine, smartphone apps, wearables and VR. Shah stated that “these are four of the top six biggest disruptors to the healthcare workforce in the next 20 years.” It’s no longer a question of if we can integrate these into medical training but more inevitable that they are going to be integrated. The question is - “how can we integrate them to the best level we can?” In order to train our future clinicians even better than we currently are.

Shah then shared his view on how to implement MedTech in a practical manner. MedTech needs to increase efficiency and be user-focused and designed as “this is the current limitation for a lot of these tools.” For an educational organisation to undergo true transformational change there has to be that buy-in and this can be achieved through greater technology literacy amongst decision makers. Shah also highlighted that it needs to be cost effective, reliable and trusted.

Shah concluded the presentation on how essential trust is to this innovation. “As we’ve seen time and time again the biggest reason many innovation drives have failed in the NHS is due to lack of public trust or lack of the public fully supporting any innovation programme.” This is largely due to distrust of how personal data is going to be used. Gaining this trust will be the key to such transformative innovations as trust is fundamental to everything involved in MedTech and health tech.

As Shah previously highlighted, Wearables are third on the list of advancements that are inevitably going to be the biggest disruptors within healthcare and technology. The creation and acceleration of more wearable technology devices are going to transform the healthcare industry by providing detailed personalised data, diagnostics and at home monitoring. Stay ahead of the curve by getting in touch with us in creating a wearable device to improve the health and wellbeing of people. We offer end-to-end services and we would love to hear from you. Read more on our services here.

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