Continued access to healthcare education with virtual technology

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for many industries all over the world, particularly those in the healthcare sector. With restricted access to patients, cancelled or delayed elective procedures and measures to work from home implemented, the industry was unable to practise as normal for months. And indeed, looks set to do so for months yet to come.

Adapting to these challenges whilst addressing the backlog in the diagnosis and treatment of certain conditions, such as prostate cancer, requires the quick and effective application of digital technologies, including remote monitoring, telehealth systems and collaboration tools. Saheed Rashid, Managing Director, BXTAccelyon, explores how innovative technology, in particular, e-learning solutions, has allowed care and education to continue as ‘normal’ during challenging times.

One area which has advanced through technology is medical education, which continues to rapidly adapt to the changing healthcare environment, as well as clinician demands and expectations. With our modern healthcare system, it is necessary to have a modern training and education system alongside it.

E-learning has accelerated over the years, and now more than ever, is crucial to continuing training and education in healthcare during COVID-19. By facilitating an active, learner-centred, collaborative approach, teaching has not only become more personalised, allowing the user to access their educational resources online when it is convenient to them, but it provides the NHS with the additional skills needed to tackle current backlogs. Results have found this to work for many, as recent research found that trainees prefer technology-associated modalities that offer interactive and reputable learning material which is coupled with relevant feedback.

The MRI PRO, which is distributed by BXTAccelyon, is an online self-learning tool for prostate MRI diagnostics, designed and developed by an international team of specialist MRI radiologists and urologists. The subscription-based e-learning platform allows healthcare professionals and trainees to test themselves on 300 of the highest quality histology-verified prostate MRI cases, and get instant expert feedback on how they did, including access to the actual biopsy report. Additionally, the platform provides users with performance over time, with a percentage score of correct answers for the last 20 and 50 cases reviewed.

Offering this personalised and flexible approach to learning allows healthcare professionals to gain the experience that is required for accurate interpretation and reporting of MRI scans, which is now recognised as an important step in the accurate diagnosis of prostate cancer. There is an unmet demand for education and training in MRI imaging and interpretation by all healthcare professionals, including in nursing, junior doctor, urologist and radiologist training.

The main risks and constraints which can present through some e-learning platforms, lies in incorrect or inaccurate interpretation of images. In order for digital education to be of most value, collaboration between experts and their students is key. This risk is mitigated with MRI Pro by having experts available to discuss the interpretation of the scans, answering any questions the user may have, to ensure that help is available when needed to get the most value from the platform.

Digital technology also comes with the risks of data protection and confidentiality, but with the necessary security precautions and education in place, threats can be minimised. This particular platform helps to eliminate any issues of patient confidentiality, as the MRI scans used are both anonymised and non-specific to any clinician’s hospital. As an added security element, such tools should be password-protected on a user-basis, so they are programmed and accessible to the individual only.

Digital solutions, such as MRI Pro, can overcome the challenges of access to medical education that the NHS has faced during the pandemic, allowing clinical staff to continue to educate themselves and augment their skill-set – which overall helps to improve patient care. We expect to see a surge in flexible and active learning methods now, and in the ‘new normal’ post COVID-19, as they begin to take precedence in contemporary medical education.