The rapid growth of the Internet is changing the way health professionals continue their medical education. Traditional learning methods are being replaced by new technologies that are allowing practicing doctors and medical students to study what they need, when they need it.
Dr Asif Qasim, an NHS consultant cardiologist and pioneer of peer-to-peer medical learning on the web, shares his views on the importance of peer-assisted learning in the medical profession. “Continuing medical education is essential to the evolution of healthcare but isn’t always easy to fit into busy schedules with unusual hours”, he says.
Indeed, a physician’s schedule revolves around the needs of his or her patients. Courses, lectures and demonstrations often need to take a back seat when emergencies require immediate attention. “By providing secure platforms where health professionals can connect, discuss cases, view procedures and operations and find expert advice on relevant cases,” adds Asif Qasim, “new health technology gives doctors the opportunity to improve their services and enhance their expertise without affecting their work schedules. That is exactly what MedShr is all about. ”
The benefits of peer learning are multiple. “First of all,” explains Asif Qasim, “peer-to-peer learning alleviates teaching pressures on medical school faculty.” While class sizes are steadily growing, budgets are not following, making it more and more difficult for teachers to provide the individualized attention required to train the doctors and surgeons of tomorrow.
Studies have also shown that health professionals who teach and train other health professionals gain greater mastery of their specialties while learning how to work as part of a team. Peer teaching also allows physicians to identify their strengths and weaknesses: essential knowledge when other people’s lives depend on your abilities.
Another important implication of peer-to-peer e-learning concerns globalization in medical education, says Dr Asif Qasim. Being able to share and compare techniques and knowledge with health professionals across the globe in real time is an invaluable benefit offered by new online social networks for physicians.
Medical conferences also play an essential role in furthering medical knowledge. Breakthroughs in medical techniques and technology require not only tremendous amounts of funding and research, they also require scientific exchange – exchange that is being facilitated by technology experts who are devising new ways of bringing physicians around the world together to discuss their ideas, theories and research.
While actual physical presence at local, national or international conferences should not be underestimated, the demands placed on today’s health professionals are such that taking time off to participate in scientific gatherings and symposia is becoming increasingly difficult. “Conferences are an integral part of continuing medical education,” asserts Dr Asif Qasim. “By collaborating with online technology experts, health professionals can organize interactions that allow for remote audience participation. MedShr live and on demand cases are an integral part of these virtual conferences. ”
With government funding on the rise, health-oriented peer-to-peer learning networks for doctors are paving the way for more effective and efficient patient care. Keeping physicians up-to-date on the latest techniques and technology on a global basis is the first step to keeping people out of the emergency room.