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Charting a sea change in medical education

The medical education landscape has changed significantly over recent years. There are many reasons for this sea change, but two stand out...
Charting a sea change in medical education

We now live firmly in a digital environment. As consumers we expect information on demand, wherever we are and on whatever device(s) we have with us at the time. This applies no less to medical information than any other kind. 

According to recent data, 60 per cent of healthcare professionals use tablets (e.g. iPad) professionally and this percentage has doubled in the last year. Smartphone use is even more prevalent. Of course this doesn't mean that traditional analogue initiatives no longer have a place (it may not be as simple as replacing the book with the e-book), but we do need to ensure that healthcare professionals can access educational information on a platform that is easy for them to access at their convenience. Digital media therefore has to be central in any educational strategy, even in emerging markets.  

Digital delivery
Delivering educational initiatives digitally not only increases the reach, but can also transform the impact. Digital channels enable us to quickly tailor information not only to the changing needs of our audience as a whole but also to the specific needs of an individual learner. By asking questions and using metrics intelligently, we can tailor information to make the user experience as relevant, swift and helpful as possible. This doesn't need to be expensive and even better, digital delivery can be socially responsible – we saved 3.5 tonnes of paper on a recent meeting series by replacing traditional printed materials with electronic media – although it is important not to over-engineer a solution for the sake of gimmickry. 

Making full use of digital channels, including social media, continues to be a challenging area for the pharmaceutical industry, reflecting regulatory uncertainties, anxiety over loss of content control and the global reach of electronic media, and an innate conservatism that is, frankly, seeing the sector increasingly left behind in technical and communications proficiency. Difficulties and inconsistencies in accreditation of digital resources, meanwhile, have not helped the uptake of the digital medium in the formal CME/CPD space. 

So the 'danger' is not so much that educational resources are becoming digital, but that the non-digital alternatives are becoming less relevant and impactful to their audiences. 

Integrating resources
Our recommended approach is to integrate, rather than supplant, and to deliver education that is relevant and insightful – in which case the medium of its delivery will become immaterial.

Meanwhile, the desire for content control, and serving commercial interests and delivering 'messages' while providing education to healthcare professionals, have perhaps contributed to the change in perception of medical education in recent years. 

Education providers need to be able to manage the conflicting interests of their paymasters and the medical profession, and to deliver clearly objective, unbiased education that meets a genuine need for increased clinical knowledge and that serves the interests of healthcare professionals and patients. 

The education industry should not be implementing commercial strategy – except insofar as that strategy includes a commitment to improved patient care and clinical excellence. 

We are pleased to work with pharmaceutical companies who do adhere to those principles, and have delivered education programmes that make a quantifiable difference to patient care. One such programme has now been running for more than eight years in the UK, reaching primary care teams with education that the NHS was itself unlikely to provide for logistic and budgetary reasons. Another programme is helping to bridge the gaps within interdisciplinary care teams in a particularly challenging therapeutic area. Where's the ROI on those? 

Greater skills and confidence among healthcare professionals lead to improved treatment decisions (which in many cases will mean earlier intervention, faster intensification or better adherence) and enhanced patient outcomes. There's also the side effect of an enhanced reputation for the sponsor company and for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole – something that should not be under-valued.

Article by
Dr Paul Hilditch

managing director, Watermeadow Medical
Email him

23rd April 2013

From: Marketing

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