Online learning for busy doctors
The learning modules developed by various online platforms vary widely in details, duration and intensity, says Dr Mangesh Tiwaskar
The career span of most clinical specialists probably extends to at least three decades and perhaps a bit longer. Thus if we assume that a young medical professional completes the basic postgraduate degree by about 27-28 years of age, and they work until 70, the span is slightly more than three decades.
During this time, the disease patterns, diagnostic methods, treatment modalities and everything else about clinical practice could be expected to undergo a sea change. New diseases would have emerged as well as new remedies for them, earlier surgical techniques would have fallen by the way side, and the clinical course of many diseases would have altered significantly.
To illustrate this, let us examine the career of a medical professional who is 60 years of age today, and is likely to have completed his MS/MD around 1985. Between then and now, the entire sub-specialty of Minimally Invasive Surgery has developed, cataract surgery and intra-ocular lens implant techniques have become common place, many cancers have become treatable, and so on. The global pandemic of HIV/AIDS began in the US in late 1970s and came to India a decade later. Thus, a doctor who had completed his postgraduate studies in mid-1980s would have become hopelessly outdated by 2010!
The only way to protect one-self from becoming a complete professional fossil is for clinical specialists to keep on learning continuously. It is therefore said that a good doctor shall perforce remain a student all his life. From this need, arose the idea of Continuing Medical Education or CME, a concept that everyone is familiar with these days. Even the Medical Council of India recognises this need and hence it has made a certain number of CME credits compulsory for all practicing doctors.
The Association of Physicians of India (API) which was primarily formed to provide physicians a platform to come together and share experience and research observations in Medicine also believes that outcome-based learning for physicians facilitates in expanding their skills and professional excellence.
The question therefore comes – how does a busy professional with a flourishing practice update himself about his own specialty? Not everyone can spare the time to go back to a medical college; nor can the medical colleges in the country accommodate the learning needs of so many.
The obvious recourse for all the medical practitioners is: online medical courses, which are significantly enhancing health care professional’s knowledge and patients outcome.
The technological advances are significantly transforming outcome-based learning in healthcare. Not long ago, the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), has collaborated with DocMode to promote online teaching amongst Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Likewise, International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) is harnessing technology for advanced e-learning in ophthalmologists. Besides, Indian Dental Association (IDA) is enhancing practicing dentists and dental students’ skills and knowledge through advanced online continuous education.
The learning modules developed by various platform provides comprehensive and interactive learning programs for health professionals across the world. Enabling healthcare professionals’ access to cutting-edge, scientific, evidence-based insights and skill-based courses are resulting in improving healthcare environment around the world.
The learning modules developed by these online platforms vary widely in details, duration and intensity.
The next major step in development of online medical learning in India would be when the Medical Council of India (or its successor – the National Medical Commission) agrees to accord formal recognition to the online medical courses. At present, this is the major difference between the facilities offered by platforms in India and the western countries. But given the severe shortage of medical college seats at the undergraduate as well as postgraduate level, this can be expected to happen sooner rather than later.
Dr Mangesh Tiwaskar is general secretary with Association of Physicians of India.