‘ET phone Doctor’ – Telemedicine education and training (ET) needs a revamp
The integration of telemedicine into routine clinical care is still highly limited today despite substantial investments, a growing need and policy changes by governments across the globe. And although many may point the finger to misjudged financial or care models, a large contributor may simply be the lack of available and necessary education and training (ET) for healthcare professionals. Current medical students are among the first generation of “digital natives” and are comfortable with the increased incorporation of technology into everyday social interactions. However, they require training to effectively use technology in their careers1. The importance of ET within the field of telemedicine cannot be overstated, as education ensures maximum benefits while guaranteeing quality and safety for patients.
The American Medical Association (AMA), by encouraging medical schools in the US to include core skills for telemedicine in their programs, highlights that formal training both extends and amplifies the impact that telemedicine can bring to healthcare. The inherent comfortable nature of present-day medical students with technology needs to be nurtured with structured training throughout their years at medical school.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), between 2016 and 2017, approximately 58% of medical schools in the US included telemedicine as a topic in either compulsory and/or elective courses. In their studies, students learned a number of key skills needed for telemedicine, such as:
– how to conduct clinical examinations by video conferences
– how to monitor real-time data from patient wearable devices
– the difference between ‘bedside’ manner and ‘webside’ manner.
A survey study published this year in collaboration with Télémédecine 360 highlighted that there is a need to increase telemedicine ET in medical schools in France. The survey was taken by national medical decision-makers including deans, associate deans, and medical school board members. It was found that approximately 90% of responders had no telemedicine ET in their medical schools for 1st year students and 96% stated there was no telemedicine ET for students undertaking the medical residency examinations2. Consequences of these figures may result to generations of doctors not having the right knowledge to practice medicine in the future. Curiously, 56% of responders had practised telemedicine at least once with 94% having a positive experience and 75% stating they would practise with it again2.
Additionally, besides the US, a limited number of European countries, and Australia, only a few studies have been conducted on telemedicine ET implementation in the world. It is hard to imagine a future in which telemedicine isn’t an integral part of healthcare, however, learning and understanding the new skills healthcare professionals require is essential to providing quality care to meet the needs of tomorrow’s patients.
1. Pathipati, A. S. et al., (2016). Telemedical Education: Training Digital Natives in Telemedicine. J Med Internet Res. 18(7), e193. doi:10.2196/jmir.5534
2. Yaghobian, S. et al., (2019). National survey of telemedicine education and training in medical schools in France. J Telemed and Telecare. https://doi.org/10.1177/1357633X18820374