Enrollment into medical schools within the United States is at an all-time high. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (2017), enrollment is up 28% since 2002.  Only 40% of that enrollment growth is due to the establishment of 22 new, U.S. medical schools (Association of American Medical Colleges, 2017).  With larger teacher to student ratios, there is a fear that students will not receive the hands-on mentoring they need to succeed in these competitive programs.  Thankfully, to meet the demand of a larger student population, innovative teaching technologies have been introduced. Technologies such as learning management systems, mobile applications, digital games, and simulation systems are some of the many innovative technologies strengthening the medical education industry.

New Medical Education Industry Technologies

Learning Management Systems

  • These online platforms allow for students to access courses and exams online with desktop, smartphone, or tablet devices.
  • Learning management systems can be utilized to deliver medical education courses solely online–or can operate within a blended learning environment. In a blended learning environment, such as a flipped classroom, students can review lectures online before in-person classes (Hughes & Lyons, 2017).  Then during in-person classes, students can work on resolving higher-level issues related to the online lecture.  This promotes a more efficient, interactive, in-person classroom environment–while also allowing students the flexibility to access lectures anytime, anywhere.
  • One LMS for healthcare industry is CertCentral.  CertCentral’s easy-to-use interface allows fast creation and administration of multimedia-rich courses and exams.  Manage hundreds of programs seamlessly, and track student progress through programs.

Mobile Applications

  • Reference mobile applications found to be helpful by first-year medical students that can solidify knowledge presented in the classroom include UptoDate, Taber’s Medical Dictionary, LabGear, and Heart Murmur Pro.  UptoDate is a research tool that helps with research paper formulation and can also keep you current with the latest research findings. Taber’s Medical Dictionary helps clarify medical terminology with a swift click of a button. LabGear serves as a reference for immune system panel values or complete metabolic panel values.  Heart Murmur Pro helps students learn different cardiac rhythms when studying to administer a complete physical examination (American Medical Student Association, 2016).
  • Further, mobile applications such as Complete Anatomy or Essential Anatomy 5 can aid in student understanding of anatomy.  Pinch-and-zoom functionality allows students to view the ins and outs of bodily structures from veins to muscle groups to organs to entire body systems (American Medical Student Association, 2016).

Digital Games

  • Serious digital games for surgical procedures provide challenging environments that mimic real-life high-pressure environments of invasive procedures. These games are shown to improve hand-eye coordination and reflexes (Guze, 2015).
  • One game, ElderQuest, teaches students in geriatric clerkships how to better understand the particular needs of the elderly population (Guze, 2015).
  • The use of digital games is a great way to encourage students to practice skills introduced within the classroom environment.

Simulation Systems

  • Simulation systems such as part-task trainers and Virtual Reality (VR) simulators are only some of the many forms of simulation systems available.  High-fidelity medical simulations are most helpful when they can provide effective feedback, allow for repetitive practice, range in difficulty, capture clinical variations in presentation, and allow for individualized learning as well as team training (Guze, 2015).
  • Palp-Sim is one example of a part-task trainer. A part-task trainer is a 3-D replica of a body part or region with functionality that mimics human anatomy functions.  Palp-Sim is a 3-D replica that allows medical students to practice placing a cannula in the femoral artery. Palp-Sim produces a feeling of resistance when medical students utilize medical tools within its environment (Guze, 2015).
  • The LINDSAY Virtual Human Project is an example of a VR simulator.  This 3-D anatomy and physiology model is computer-generated and allows medical students to visualize anatomy and other human components as if they were presented in-person with the use of Meta Glasses.  The LINDSAY Virtual Human Project has been shown to enhance students’ learning regarding ear anatomy (Guze, 2015).
  • Certain simulation systems give students targeted feedback, so when faced with larger class sizes, educators can allocate one group of students to work with a simulation system while another group works with the teacher or the teacher’s assistant.  This way, all students have the opportunity to receive important feedback during class.