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Using Technology to Improve Health Professions Education

New York, NY

Catherine Lucey, MD, Vice Dean for Education at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, is a coauthor of “The Future of Health Professions Education,” a paper commissioned by the Macy Foundation for our April 2015 conference. The paper, which will be included in the comprehensive conference monograph out later this fall, helped spark engaging and provocative conference discussions that informed Macy’s new recommendations for how technology can enhance health professions education.

We caught up with Dr. Lucey to hear more about how she sees technology as a resource to improve health professions education:

Is technology being used the way it should be in health professions education?
Not quite. There is a lot of great stuff happening that institutions can be taking advantage of that they aren’t yet. At the Macy Conference I was exposed to a bunch of movers and shakers in the tech world as well as health professions educators who are leading the way when it comes to technology, so was able to hear about the many opportunities we have at our disposal.

So what needs to change?
First, we really need to integrate our care delivery and information technology systems with our educational activities. One way is by bringing clinical data into the classroom. It is a relatively recent advancement that we can survey electronic health records (EHRs) and find out whether the care we delivered is actually making a difference. We should take that one step further and link patient data back to not just our care environments but also our education system, and find gaps in our educational competencies. In this way, we can create a continuous learning health care environment. This would be our Holy Grail.

How can we use technology to help train health professions to be patient and population responsive?

Our ability to use and mine data is turning lifelong learning on its head. We are no longer waiting for death or morbidity numbers, but can track trends in real time to find gaps between the care we think we are delivering and the care that is being received. We can teach learners to understand this data as a new set of competencies, and health professions education programs across the country are already embedding this into their curriculums.

What else should we be doing with technology to enhance health professions education?
Every school—nursing, pharmacy, medicine—has its own unique values and curricula they need to teach, but there is a common set of competencies around quality, safety, and communication that all schools teach. We should be leveraging technology to share this content with one-another, via online libraries and social networking tools.

How did the discussions at the Macy conference impact or energize you?
I really enjoyed the discussions about how the end user approaches technology. What the learner expects, what a faculty member expects (especially the faculty who did not learn in a technology-rich environment but are expected to teach in one), and what a patient expects. It was all very powerful to hear.

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