Mobile Technology in Healthcare Education
Written on June 30, 2016 by Scott Barrows
Steve Jobs never stopped searching for new ideas. He always wondered how technology can seamlessly interface with the “human experience.”
In 2002, I had an opportunity to collaborate and trade thoughts with Steve on this concept as it relates to the human body. We had a working title of “iMed” (Figure 1) and now much of that early vision is captured by mobile devices like the iPad Pro, wearable devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, and through portable versions of 3D virtual glasses and goggles (from products like the high-end HTC Vive to the inexpensive Google Cardboard and variations that use a smartphone).
Although the total number of medical apps (iOS) make up only 1.99% of the total number of downloads from the App Store, when lifestyle and health/fitness are added, that number expands to 13.67% to all iOS downloads. Interactivity, personalized health data availability, game-like engagement, and a focus on “edutainment” make the vision of technological integration more dynamic than ever.
New Learning Styles & Apps May Help Change Unhealthy Behaviors
Mobile, interactive, and wearable technologies have altered how we learn, and the impact in healthcare is enormous. Social media, game-play platforms, collaborative e-community based learning, immersive programs, simulation apps, built-in biosensors, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and peer-to-peer learning all have promise to help better educate patients and health professionals. (Figure 2)
Some of the most difficult challenges in healthcare are unhealthy behaviors from foods we eat, overeating, smoking, lack of exercise, and a lack of motivation to change. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics in 2014 indicate that up to 40% of annual deaths from each of the five leading causes of death in the U.S. are from “modifiable risk factors”. Habit formation develops in the basal ganglia of the brain and once established, may take weeks or months to change. Most programs and apps fail to make much of an impact so far in changing bad habits.
The good news is that more effective proven methods such as Prochaska’s stages of behavior change (pre-contemplative, contemplative, preparation, action, and maintenance) are now being integrated into personal mobile apps that merge personal lab results and up-to-the-minute recording of lifestyle data in a dynamic network. Additionally, some apps include live contact with health counselors who assist in answering
questions and providing personalized support. (Figure 3)
The challenges are steep and while 10% of Americans report they own an activity tracker, 50% report they do not know how to use them and 33% say they stop using them after six months. Better technology is warranted. As biosensors improve, wearable technology will provide not only valuable data but real-time feedback to help patients better manage their health.
New Mobile Technology & Platforms in Healthcare Education
Jump Simulation is at the forefront with many of the new integrated technologies in medical education and innovation. Next year, the campuses of the University of Illinois College of Medicine will launch a new curriculum in human anatomy and construct a state-of-the-art anatomy lab in Peoria at UICOMP. The vision is to blend the best in traditional dissection with new technological resources.
One excellent resource may be Complete Anatomy, which recently won the coveted 2016 Apple Design Award in healthcare. This highly interactive mobile app combines much of the information and visualization contained in books like Gray’s Anatomy along with the interactivity and endless editable views of an iPad. Complete Anatomy is designed for the advanced iPad Pro technology and features numerous editable functions using the Apple Pencil that provide endless cross-section views, selective anatomical structures and systems, collaborative interaction, and recording functions. Complete Anatomy is one of the finest healthcare mobile apps on the market. (Figure 4)
Another outstanding interactive medical app is Touch Surgery. Touch Surgery provides a guided, interactive experience that simulates specific surgical procedures in a step-by-step process. The ever expanding library of surgical procedures in many specialty areas is an excellent approach that utilizes visual learning and experiential activity. (Figure 5)
With the explosion of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) capabilities, 3D interaction in healthcare provides immersive explorations inside of the human body. When combined with patient 3D scans from CT and high res MRI, clinicians can look deeper and in endless dimensions at specific structures. High-end goggles like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive offer exquisite high definition interaction and even low-end devices like Google Cardboard and others utilize mobile smart phone technology to give a “3D” experience.
Other interactive mobile programs and technologies are used in health professions education, like Health Scholars. A Peoria-based educational series developed by the nurses at OSF HealthCare in conjunction with SIMnext and CSE Software Inc. The interactive, self-contained learning encounter for nurses is built on a mobile, tablet-based platform created to help standardize nurse education. It is a series of self-directed learning modules that take education from the classroom to mobile sites, including the hospital floor.
Mobile and app-based learning will continue to evolve, and researchers, faculty, and staff at Jump are actively involved in the exploration. These new technologies will impact education and improve patient care, safety, and reduce costs. Steve Jobs would approve but reminds us that much more needs to be done. Fortunately, much of that work is in development at Jump.
Scott Barrows is the Director of Simulation Programming at Jump Simulation Center. He was previously Vice-President of Marketing at a biotechnology laboratory in Virginia, and Vice-President of Creative at a medical software “think tank” in Nevada.
Barrows was the Director of the Biomedical Visualization graduate program at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center for numerous years and still serves on the adjunct faculty. He was also an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including recognition from two U.S. Presidents, the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Illinois.
He and his wife enjoy their children, grandchildren, and two dogs, as well as visiting historical sites. He volunteers his time to several patient-centered and animal welfare organizations.