New Delhi: According to a WHO’s study, called Promoting Rational Use of Medicines in 2002, CME (Continuing Medical Education) opportunities are limited in developing countries like India, unlike developed countries like United States. The reasons could be lack of legal or other incentives, as stated in the study. However, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has made it mandatory for doctors to complete 30 hours of CME every five years in order to renew their license by attending workshops and seminars, which are organised by various healthcare institutions in India.
Leveraging the digital space for the same are online educational institutions like Medvarsity and Omnicuris. These are two online platforms in India that digitally provide medical educational courses and individual lectures to help medical practitioners as well as aspirants and paramedic staff to continue their education on distant learning mode. While workshops and seminars continue to be the hot spots, online education is trending for medicos
Need for Online Education
According to Gerald Jaideep, CEO of Medvarsity, medical education in India is not up to the level it requires to be at. “Out of 52,000 medical graduates, 30% of them drop out of their clinical practices. It may be because they don’t share any passion in medicine as they may have joined the course due to family pressure or other requirements. And the quality of training in the undergraduate programme may not be interesting enough to excite these young students to continue to practise medicine. It generates a shortage of skilled professionals in healthcare,” he told ETHealthworld.
As per the WHO’s standard, there should be at least one doctor per 1000 population. “In India, even though we graduate highest number of doctors every year, yet our doctor to population ratio isn’t 1/10th of the WHO’s standards. There is severe shortage of medical professionals. At the same time, the quality of medical professionals graduating is low. Therefore, Medvarsity’s foundations were laid with a vision to train or update doctors on clinical skills and make them job ready using technology enabled methodology,” Jaideep added.
Priyank Jain, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Omnicuris, also believes that there is serious lack of medical expertise in India, especially in tier II and III cities. “We feel a major gap in continuing medical education for doctors digitally. Globally, the idea of online educational programmes has been ever evolving field while in India it is still not prevalent. There have been global platforms like medscape.com and uptodate.com for CMEs but we need more localised content as cases and symptoms may vary with geographies. We wish to build capacity and provide skill enhancement of physicians and specialists in the country. Moreover, doctors can earn credit points too in their CMEs by taking our courses, as most of our programmes are accredited from government bodies. The idea is to bring all the healthcare institutions on a single largest platform to use the power of technology to meet the healthcare standards in the country,” he said.
These online education platforms provide full-fledged courses as well individual lectures, which are prepared by senior medical professionals and healthcare experts. “We have blended training methods wherein online lectures are imparted along with internships in the hospitals, which depends upon the course type whether it is clinical such as emergency medicine and endocrinology or non-clinical such as hospital management, information technology system, quality management and human resource etc. For clinical courses, internship varying from two weeks to one year at our partnered healthcare institution is mandatory. Students get certified via viva care system wherein examiners assess each student under intensive training module,” said Jaideep.
He further said, “However, these courses cannot be replaced by full-time postgraduate programmes. Many students join us because our training modules help them get employments in the healthcare industry along with providing foundation for them to prepare for postgraduate entrance exams and evaluations.”
Jain added, “We have more than 15 odd courses with over 300 hours of content across various specialities like cardiology, endocrinology, gynaecology and internal medicine. We have 30,000 registered doctors on the platform who access our content in the forms of lectures and courses, which get added on everyday basis.”
Medvarsity has two kinds of partners, which are clinical partners and accreditation partners. “Clinical partners are the ones where students get deployed for clinical attachments such as internships. These partners include Apollo Hospital, Columbia Asia, Star Hospital and others around the country. Accreditation partners provide knowledge based certification, depending upon the standards, for students to get certified. These include University of New South Wales and Cornell University etc. They also do quality analysis of our courses before approving them for education and ensure that they monitor the whole framework in which online teaching is being delivered,” said Jaideep.
Omnicuris has association with healthcare institutions like Fortis Healthcare, Tata Memorial Hospital and medical experts with 25-30 years of experience. Jain said, “ We have developed a course on oncology with Tata Memorial Hospital. The course will be provided to district hospitals in various states with an aim to equip primary care centres in tier II and III cities to enable them to diagnose cancer in early stages. Most of the courses are available for free of cost because we don’t want money to be a constraint for people to access the knowledge. We have a good presence in southern parts of the country such as Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra and are aggressively expanding to northern states of the country, making this platform reachable to every doctor in the country.”
The major challenge is the non-recognition of online medical education content by Medical Council of India. “Currently, MCI doesn’t recognize online medical training, which means when a student passes a course at Medvarsity, he/she doesn’t get the MCI recognition. For example, when they do a course on endocrinology, they can’t practise as an endocrinologist but can assist a diabetes doctor. There is critical difference between formal educations that the MCI governs versus what we provide as an add-on education support,” said Jaideep.
Jain finds non-acceptability of the online education concept for medicos a major concern. “Acceptability will take time. The second major concern is the availability of quality content, which is a market challenge. Professionals who spend time travelling and giving talks in conferences will take their own time to accept the new mode of technology for the same,” he said.
“It is already a billion dollar industry. Online education is here to stay, in a condition that regulatory bodies evolve to recognize the online quality education. There are lots of players entering into the segment as the cost of getting 1-2 hours of professional video lecture is very low but the cost of entering into this segment is very high because you need to establish a network of clinical partners where students can be deployed for clinical practices. Creating year long intensive courses too require substantial investment of time and energy. We spend 70% of our revenue back into the content generation, partnering with network and technology to improve the quality of delivered training,” said Jaideep.
Omnicuris, which is a seven-month old organisation, has raised funding of Rs 1 crore from a Hyderabad-based angel investor, whose identity has not been disclosed, and has aggressive plans to expand its reach. “We are looking to expand across the country and in a couple of months will go back to the market for the next round of funding. Currently, we are operationally profitable venture and are working with the industry partners as sponsors for our courses,” said Jain.