Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
We read with great interest the article by Robin and colleagues1 addressing the changing role of technology in medical education. Our comments below are based on our experience as staff of the Institute for Innovative Technology in Medical Education, a nonprofit group that develops and maintains virtual patients that are now in use in over 80% of accredited MD-granting medical schools. We agree with Robin and colleagues' assertions and recommendations and are writing this letter to further elucidate certain aspects of the topic that we believe could add to readers' understanding of the current state of the art of technology in medical education.
First, those interested in developing new instructional technologies should work collaboratively with national clerkship directors' organizations to ensure comprehensive coverage and alignment with their nationally accepted curricula. Creating such a broad development consortium allows for sharing of a variety of development resources that might not be available at a single institution. Collaborative development also fosters a process with a primary focus on teaching and learning rather than on the use of technology for its own sake.
Second, comprehensive coverage of a curriculum allows medical educators to easily implement virtual patients to fill gaps in exposure, supporting learning that is otherwise not possible.2
Third, collaborative development and maintenance of virtual patients fortuitously creates the infrastructure suggested by Robin and colleagues that can support the academic development of collaborators as medical educators.
Finally, it is important to recognize that an infrastructure is needed to maintain the educational content of an instructional technology such as virtual patients, and to address the ongoing technical support needs of a large base of users.
We agree that the future is here, and we look forward to the new innovations and collaborations that will undoubtedly develop to further advance health care education.
Norman Berman, MD
Associate professor of pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, and executive director, Institute for Innovative Technology in Medical Education, Lebanon, New Hampshire; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Fall, MD
Professor of pediatrics, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire, and executive director, Institute for Innovative Technology in Medical Education, Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1. Robin BR, McNeil SG, Cook DA, Agarwal KL, Singhal GR. Preparing for the changing role of instructional technologies in medical education. Acad Med. 2011;86:435–439.
2. Berman NB, Fall LH, Smith S, et al.. Integration strategies for using virtual patients in clinical clerkships. Acad Med. 2009;84:942–949.