Blog | Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Using technology for lifelong learning in medicine


Physicians and other health care providers are incredibly busy. The administrative burdens have never been greater, they must learn to keep up in their respective area of practice, and caring for patients is a complex set of skills that takes time to achieve proficiency.

Recently, there has been a flurry of conversation in medical education about lifelong learning, including this piece on the interplay of social media and lifelong learning. Most would agree that lifelong learning (whether self-directed or otherwise) is an important skill. In fact, we teach this early on in medical school, and continue to stress the importance of lifelong learning during residency training and again in practice.

This post by Dr. John Mandrola on the NEJM Knowledge+ blog really hits home with respect to lifelong learning for practicing clinicians. I really appreciate the last point about finding one's own strategy for lifelong learning. I struggle with optimal formats for “teaching” people to have a strategy. Some excel at this skill, and others really need to work at it. I think that maybe modeling it to trainees could have an effect (“Someday, I want to be like Dr. X; she is always striving to learn, even after 20 years in practice”).

I do believe that given the rate of change in medicine, it is paramount that physicians consider the important of lifelong learning. After all, our patients will ultimately benefit from our efforts to be lifelong learners and to stay current in our practice of medicine.

I think that in the current age of “everything at one's fingertips”, in the form of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, the concept of lifelong learning has never been more important. How does a physician keep up? What are the skills that are important for physicians to have? Dr. Vartabedian has written extensively on the subject of the digital literacy that is needed for today's physicians. Curating, collating, and how to find what one needs are skills that need to be taught, not only to students and residents, but also to practicing clinicians.

Given the plethora of sources available, I am seeing trainees more and more asking “what should I read/study?” This is interesting, since there never have been more resources available than in today's age. I'd like to give just a few examples of tools that I find incredibly helpful. (Full disclosure, I have no financial conflicts with any of these tools mentioned. My spouse is an emergency physician in community practice.)

Browzine. I use this resource on a mobile tablet through my institutional library subscription. It allows opportunity to get full text articles from most of the journals with which our library has a subscription. It is also great to review table of contents quickly, with fast linking to the full text if I want to read more.

NEJM Knowledge+. This resource is a way to review content for internal medicine (and family medicine) through adaptive learning, which is very unique. I think of it as “smart testing”, whereby one inputs both answers to multiple choice questions, as well as her/his confidence in the answer provided. Here is a link to an explanation on this type of learning. I have used my own account to choose questions for residents during education conferences, and the engagement from the residents has been quite impressive. There is also an opportunity to purchase an account for an entire residency program.

ALiEM: This is a compendium by emergency medicine specialists which is an incredible resource for those interested in this field. It includes posts on staying healthy, links to apps pertinent to caring for patients in an emergency setting, resources for teaching in emergency medicine, as well as learning emergency medicine. I especially like the videos describing procedures in the ED setting. For those interested in improving their educator skills, the MEdiC links are incredibly helpful.

Twitter: there is an incredible community of practice related to medical educators on Twitter. I learn so much from folks I have met, and also many I have yet to meet in real life. A Thursday evening, 9 p.m. EDT Twitter chat on medical education topics is a great opportunity to start learning from others. For literature on this topic, see these 2 articles: 1 on using Twitter as a learning tool, and 1 on social media for lifelong learning.

I am curious what other online resources and technology that others are using for their own lifelong learning.

Alexander M. Djuricich, MD, FACP, is Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education and a Program Director in Medicine-Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. This post originally appeared at Mired in MedEd, where he blogs about medical education.