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Traditional or digital health care education?

Shead, Dorothy A.1,2; Olivier, Benita1,3

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doi: 10.11124/JBIES-20-00118
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Digital technology has affected the way in which health care is implemented,1 and as a result, has similarly demanded health sciences education adapt to these changes in response.2

The pathway to clinical competency for undergraduate allied health students has largely mirrored the medical education approach, and both have moved into the digital age. There is ongoing discussion as to how training curricula can be adapted to address medical professionals’ preparedness for technological interaction with a digitally savvy patient community and how educators can deliver such knowledge.3 There is no doubt that there is a need for health professionals to become more technologically competent, and this must be addressed by appropriate health care education.4

Recently, a JBI scoping review identified that a range of teaching methods and theories were utilized in the teaching of postgraduate health science students.5 It also revealed that educators were open to the use of innovative teaching methods. In this regard, microlearning across medical and allied professions6 has been recommended, and interrogation of high-fidelity simulation across disciplines has been proposed7 or achieved, with both positive8 and negative9 outcomes reported.

The topic of health care education is vast. It encompasses input from many different health care disciplines with diverse interventions carried out and outcomes realized. The scoping review format is most suited to the mapping and synthesis of such data.

In this issue of JBI Evidence Synthesis, scoping reviews explore different perspectives on allied health care students’ education.10,11 One addresses the long-standing inclusion of undergraduate anatomy education for physiotherapy students,10 whereas another reviews the use of digital technologies used to teach undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy and occupational therapy students.11

The scoping review by Shead et al.10 sourced 54 papers from 1980 to 2019 that were grouped into eight categories: interprofessional education; team-based learning; peer teaching/mentoring/tutoring; computer-assisted learning; multimodal and blended learning; curriculum, pedagogy, and materials; clinical input; and professional behaviors, ethics, and humanistic aspects. Eight studies incorporated the use of interprofessional education. Team-based learning, although used in two studies exclusively, was incorporated into many other areas such as interprofessional learning and peer teaching. Clinical, ethical, and professional behavior considerations highlighted the continuing need for the humanistic aspects of health care to be addressed. The curricular and pedagogical studies revealed that the use of traditional pedagogy, such as dissection, is on the decline. The use of blended learning, asynchronous online discussion, interactive videos, the identification of computer-assisted learning, and the concept of the flipped classroom fit well with the more modern and innovative technologies investigated by the Olivier et al.11 scoping review.

Olivier et al.11 found 52 studies pertaining to undergraduate or postgraduate health care education published between 2013 and 2018. Three main data categories were reported: type of technology used, application of digital technology, and author-reported outcomes. The review identified many types of technologies being used for several purposes: to deliver focused topics; ascertain learning feedback; assess clinical sessions, practical techniques, and skills; develop community learning with peer support and shared learning; and develop professional behaviors. This review documented a wide variety of software, learning management systems, mobile devices, electronic communication platforms, and repositories related to the delivery of digital content for the identified student groups. It concluded that digital technology was widely implemented in physiotherapy and occupational therapy education with positive, negative, and neutral outcomes. However, the efficacy of such technological interventions can be influenced by extraneous factors, such as student anxiety, and by feasibility of implementing such strategies, taking costs into consideration. Furthermore, face-to-face interaction with peers and lecturers is still a desirable feature of learning.

Health care education is constantly evolving. With the advent of the digital age, more emphasis is being placed on teaching methods that involve simulation and digital presentation. These methods need to be aligned to student learning outcome results.11 Recent JBI scoping reviews reveal a skewed perspective, with studies mainly presenting data and conclusions from first-world countries.8,10,11 The personable aspects of treating patients must not be lost in the myriad of digital technology, as the humanistic aspect of health care is the bedrock of social responsiveness. Hence, a combination of the best of both teaching methodologies might be the answer.


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