Dr Pragna Rao, Academic Advisor, Manipal MedAce in an interaction Express Healthcare talks about the impact of the pandemic on healthcare education in India and highlights the role public-private partnership in enhancing the skill based medical education
Can you throw some light on the impact of the pandemic on healthcare education in India?
It is now cliché to say the pandemic has changed medical education both rapidly and permanently. Certainly, the pandemic has forced medical teachers to master remote teaching, learning, and engagement. As technology, educators, and students continue to evolve, recommended online learning pedagogies will change quickly. The need for authentic digital resources will be imperative for supporting remote as well as campus-based learning. Although it is too early to judge how reactions to COVID-19 will affect healthcare education worldwide, there are signs suggesting that it could have a lasting impact on the trajectory of teaching-learning innovation and digitisation. Below, listed are three trends that could hint at future transformations in education;
- New solutions for/in education could bring much-needed innovation
- Given the digital divide, new shifts in education approaches could widen equality gaps
- Public-private educational partnerships could grow in importance
What is needed for a successful technology-based medical education?
The core focus of both classroom or e-learning is not only on technology per se but also on the content. When content captures the attention of the digital natives, the new generation of medical students, then learnability increases. This requires interactive and engaging content. The synergy of digital content and technology should help students save precious learning time and provide access to textbooks, notes, presentations, old question papers and more.
How can medical teachers benefit from using digital resources?
Digital resources can enable teachers to prepare for lectures and other non-didactic pedagogies proposed in the CBME curriculum. Besides, creating teaching and assessment material with clinical correlations can be supported by interactive digital content. Medical teaching cannot be done online only without practical experience with patients. Ultimately, medicine must be learnt at the bedside. But what about days when students cannot come to the hospital? What is the alternative arrangement? Most teachers may have their clinical skills videos or source them online. However, one is always concerned about the source and accurateness of these videos.
Technology can never replace an experienced teacher; it can never replace patients; it can never replace real bedside teaching. But technology can always assist and support medical teachers. Digital resources equip teachers to help every student continue with their education through any disruption and, most importantly, train students to always be self-sufficient in learning and to become lifelong learners, which is essential for an Indian Medical Graduate (IMG)
How can medical students benefit from self-learning and self-assessment?
The online learning landscape is awe-inspiring with several ways to learn. It allows you to read, listen, and watch videos, animations, 3-D imaging, simulations etc. Digital content can provide fun and useful self-learning opportunities. Interactive Reading materials, watching some clinical, practical, or dissection videos help in understanding skills. Most digital resources contain readymade question banks with clinical cases, images, and clinical reasoning. Questions come with instant feedback; it explains the correct answer and reasons for the wrong answer, thereby allowing the student to correct and learn. Students can practice any number of times to achieve mastery over the subject knowledge.
Life will move on after the pandemic, and classroom teaching will resume. Will medical education still hold on to e-learning?
Suppose, for any reason, face to face teaching is disrupted. In that case, colleges and universities must be prepared with a backup resource to ensure continuity of curriculum, teaching and research, and assessment. There must be a continuity to access to teaching and assessment content, books, videos, presentations, question banks, and infrastructure for all this to happen. The answer is digital resources and technology-based medical education. Post lockdown, we must extend online teaching into blended teaching and learning so that teachers and students remain proficient in remote teaching and lifelong learning, which is one of the roles of an Indian Medical Graduate.
Do healthcare education regulatory bodies support e-learning?
In a significant step towards affordable medical education, the new medical education regulatory, National Medical Commission (NMC), has notified its regulations titled “Minimum Requirements For Annual MBBS Admissions Regulations (2020)”, from the academic year 2021-22. The standards outline the sharing of all available teaching spaces by all departments (compared to the inflexibility in the regulations so far), thereby mandating all teaching spaces to be enabled for e-learning and digitally linked to one another.
What is the need to envision a holistic undergraduate medical education to meet the growing needs of the healthcare industry?
As per the National Health Profile 2020, the government will empanel 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres, covering at least 50 crore beneficiaries, by 2022. India needs to target non-communicable diseases, maternal and child health, and provide essential drugs and diagnostic services at affordable prices. As of 2020, there are 80,055 MBBS seats which fold into 36,768 MD./MS./M.Sc. seats, 2214 DM seats, and 1935 M. Ch seats. These numbers will have to be urgently upscaled if we are to meet the growing healthcare requirements. Most of the healthcare infrastructure is also supported by medical colleges. The only way all these growing healthcare needs can be supported is by ramping up the number of medical colleges, without compromising the quality of graduating doctors.
What are the major challenges and opportunities as far as scaling up the level of skill development in healthcare education in India?
As per estimates by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), healthcare can generate 2.7 million additional jobs in India between 2017-22 — over 500,000 new jobs per year. India’s healthcare industry comprises hospitals, medical devices and equipment, health insurance, clinical trials, telemedicine, and medical tourism. These market segments are expected to diversify as an ageing population with a growing middle class that increasingly favours preventative healthcare. Moreover, the rising proportion of lifestyle diseases in urban areas is boosting demand for specialised care services. Home healthcare solutions in India is currently at a relatively nascent stage. It has tremendous potential for growth in the future on account of the rising elderly population in the country. These are significant opportunities. However, skilled manpower education facilities are abysmally poor. Institutions do not exist, skills labs are expensive to set up, and teachers are hard to come by. Public-private partnership efforts may go a long way in improving skill-based education.