24 February 2007

Medical School Online Part II

Medical school online? It sounds preposterous on the surface. How can you create a realistic clinical and laboratory environment online? As a previous posting illustrated, it may not be long before the first two years of medical school--and part of the last two--can be provided online.

Online patient simulators can be useful, but are currently limited in realism. But because life and death situations are stimulating, the simulations will improve. Medical Schools are beginning to understand the potential usefulness of electronic medical simulators.
Simulation, which has become an integral component of training in the aviation industry, is now recognized as a valuable tool for training medical professionals and improving patient safety. Full-scale patient simulators help a wide variety of practitioners and students learn the diagnosis and management of clinical problems without risk to real patients.

....The Rochester Center for Medical Simulation is located near the Surgical Suite at the University Medical Center, and officially opened in 1998. The core of this specially constructed facility is a computer-controlled full-body patient simulator that incorporates mathematical models of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as models of human responses to drugs. The patient presents realistic vital signs and responds appropriately to clinical management. Physiological parameters and disease processes can be pre-programmed, or changed at any moment during the simulation by the operator.

Medical simulations using haptics allow the tactile feedback that is necessary for performing medical and surgical procedures.

Although traditional medical schools are using various types of medical simulators more frequently, even state and provincial medical licensing and credentialing boards and agencies are planning to use simulators for evaluating competencies of licensed professionals. If medical simulators and simulations are approaching that level of realism--why not an online medical school?

Realistically, what we are talking about is the decentralisation of medical training--and most other forms of high level education. Small regional medical simulation centers located far from the huge medical mega-centers can provide most of the necessary training for paramedics, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, general practitioners--even some subspecialty medical and surgical training.

But when medical and surgical training can be decentralised through advanced online simulations and teleconferencing, is there any possible form of education that cannot be presented online to a significant extent?

Currently, many university students are forced to receive academic lobotomies, for lack of enough good alternatives. In the future, that will be less true.

Also read Anders Sandberg's article at Andart blog.

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