Medical School and Classrooms of the Future

Intel suggests the following classroom environment for future 8th grade science students:

How far into the future until a classroom like this becomes reality? And how will technology like this advance medical education? These are questions the speed at which technology is evolving now more forcefully requires a thoughtful answer. The Wall Street Journal All Things D blog reported last week that the iPhone5 will most likely be unveiled the week of September 9th. Didn’t the iPhone4S just come out? Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007–only five years ago, in all its glory. Apple will now be on their 6th generation iPhone, and with each generation came additional capabilities, giving users the ability to do more–faster, better, stronger–than the previous generation, over a short five-year span. iPhone apps, iOS and iPhone compatible medical devices are fodder for an entirely different post, but in a nutshell, now make it possible for the Eric Topol’s of the world to diagnose an airline passenger having a heart attack mid-flight and get him to a hospital in time for treatment. Technology is increasingly available, but when will we be skilled enough to use it to its fullest capacity?

In an excellent post on the use of iPads for special needs students by Eric Nansteil, iPad, Therefore I Am, it would seem almost unethical NOT to prepare to provide educational interventions in the best interest of, in this case, the autistic learner, but for all learners. Technology not only augments what the average and exceptional student can do, but it provides alternatives for students who were once limited by current knowledge delivery platforms. What does this say about true intelligence, not only how it’s measured, but nurtured and given the tools to flourish? The ways in which technology will change education and affect every type of student are only beginning to be seen.

Medical education of the future has the potential to be an amazing thing. Simulation where patients once assumed the risk of student skill development is just one example. SiTel in Washington, DC is a simulation center led by Dr. Yuri Millo that is also part of the MedStar Health System. Together the two organizations are changing the way medical training is delivered. In a post on SiTel’s blog, AAMC Survey | Medical Simulation in Medical Education, author Todd Borghesani acknowledges the fact that simulation labs have been around for a while, but that the number of medical errors occurring throughout the US healthcare systems is raising the sense of urgency around safer and alternative skill acquisition training for medical trainees that does not put the patient at risk–and the healthcare community is starting to put resources behind the idea. He says:

..Events such as the creation of an academic society dedicated to simulation, the inauguration of a simulation journal, unprecedented Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality grant awards totaling $5 million, and the proliferation of simulation-based literature and research have all heralded the promise of simulation as a keystone of health profession education and patient safety…

…Simulation has the potential to revolutionize health care and address the patient safety issues if appropriately utilized and integrated into the educational and organizational improvement process.

And it is true–many medical centers across the country have, or are developing simulation centers, though they are still far from mainstream as they are expensive to start-up and maintain. But as the technology involved becomes more life-like, and the costs begin to fall inline with technological advances, the implementation of such medical training tools could significantly offset the cost of quality and safety misadventures as students and residents perfect their skills.

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