Medical education turns to virtual setting and finds flexibility, cost savings

Medical education turns to virtual setting and finds flexibility, cost savings

Technologies such as virtual reality, simulations and other video- and voice-based tools have helped bring remote learning to life. The trend of moving medical education toward the virtual setting existed even before COVID-19, but the pandemic definitively transitioned things in that direction, said Dr. Curtis Cole, chief information officer at Weill Cornell Medicine.

NYU Grossman School of Medicine, for example, had purchased plastinated bodies—preserved using plastic—before the pandemic hit the city. To make anatomy courses available in a remote setting, those were 3D-scanned and used on a teaching platform.

However, Katz’s department adopted the use of virtual reality headsets during the pandemic and found that not only was it more time-efficient, but it also resulted in cost savings. There were fewer variable costs involved—no expensive mannequins that had to be maintained, and no external instructors were needed—and individuals were able to undertake the training as their schedules permitted. Katz did a study on the VR tool for the recertification training and found that it achieved savings of 83% per learner, assuming the training was carried out four times a year.

“For some learners who needed more time, they could definitely do so, as opposed to a classroom setting, where they had to absorb all that information at the same pace as everyone else,” Katz said.

Technology has also improved the logistics of medical education. Faculty members can now prerecord their lectures when it is convenient for them, freeing up their day for clinical matters, Rosenfeld said. Not being locked into fixed times provided individuals the flexibility to carry out their own training, and this has allowed providers more time to interact with their patients, Katz said.

Technology won’t completely replace in-person learning, however, said Cole.

“Absolutely nothing replaces the actual experiences of dissection, for example,” he said.

Rosenfeld agreed, saying that even after the pandemic, all the innovations borne from the crisis will need to be preserved and adapted for future education needs.

For example, telehealth has become a mainstay, and the technologies involved in enabling it will need to be taught to students, Triola said.