Training through electronic media and devices could help prepare more healthcare professionals, addressing possible shortages of doctors and nurses around the globe, according to a new review from the World Health Organization.
The research, carried out by Imperial College London, reviewed 108 studies and found that undergraduate students acquired knowledge and skills through online and offline e-learning as well as, or better than they do, through traditional teaching, according to an announcement.
The study separately evaluated the effectiveness of online learning, which requires an Internet connection, and offline learning, delivered through methods such as CD-ROMs or USB sticks. Both were found to be effective.
However, the researcher urge institutions to combine "eLearning" with traditional teaching for courses that involve acquiring practical skills.
Lead researcher Josip Car said eLearning holds particular potential for training health workers in developing countries, though barriers remain, including access to computers, Internet connections and learning resources. Universities, however, could help develop curricula and use online resources to help reach students internationally.
Many educational institutions already incorporate technology into training for healthcare careers. Not only can students read articles and watch video lectures on tablets and similar devices, but major medical centers are investing millions of dollars in on-site simulation centers to teach an array of skills, including surgery.
The American Medical Association ranked transforming medical education--including integrating the right technology--one of its top 10 issues to watch for 2015. Simulations, mobile apps and other technology increasingly are part of healthcare workers' curricula.
"Digital natives," a generation of healthcare workers who have grown up with technology, will drive innovation of healthcare down the road, according to digital health philosopher John Nosta.
Meanwhile, teaching hospitals can provide the resources and environment needed to effectively test out digital innovations and bring them to market, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article.