How emerging tech will change training for next-generation physicians

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As patient care technology expands from 3-D images to preview operations to virtual reality goggles that help medical students learn science content, the way physicians and nurses are trained is changing significantly, The New York Times reports.

Five report insights:

1. With technology expanding rapidly, the gap between medical education and real-world care has "become a chasm," said Marc Triola, MD, director of NYU Langone's Institute for Innovations in Medical Education in New York City. The institute was created in 2013 to address this gap.  

"The healthcare delivery system is changing every day, and our medical education system has been lagging," Dr. Triola said.

2. U.S. medical and nursing schools are rethinking how and what they teach, particularly as a primary care provider shortage looms. While "the national narrative is that we need more" physicians and nurses, said Erin Fraher, PhD, director of the Carolina Health Workforce Research Center, "that is precisely the wrong way to frame this. The question has to be: Where are the places in the U.S. where patients cannot get access to diabetes care, access to prenatal care?"

3. These questions around patient care access are propelling a medical education revamp, as schools launch more community-based clinic rotations, develop special programs for rural and underserved students and expand the role of nurses and nurse practitioners.

And technology — including virtual reality, augmented reality software and high-fidelity simulations where lifelike mannequins cry, sweat and respond to medication — plays a big part in ensuring medical education is more efficient, and providers are prepared for care.

4. For example, the NYU institute uses a 360-degree camera to film a 45-minute session with a pathologist. Medical students can zoom in using goggles to see what a polyp looks like, making it "a visual in their mind" rather than just a concept, said Greg Dorsainville, a multimedia developer at the institute.

5. Although tools like virtual-reality goggles are changing how medical students acquire science content, technology may be having a larger effect on their skill learning.

Marlene Alfaro, a second-year medical student at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine, can slip on goggles, call up a 3-D image of a beating heart and probe its structures in virtual reality.

Using a textbook, Ms. Alfaro said, "it was hard for me to visualize the whole 360" degrees. But virtual reality "lets me see real quick how everything goes together," she said.

Ms. Alfaro sees technology "as a driving force behind the improvement in healthcare" that could lead to more efficient visits for her future patients.

"You want to do the most for your patients," she said, so they walk out" with their needs met."

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
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Physicians dismissing patients' knowledge linked to diagnostic errors, study finds


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