How technology could transform medical training, ease global shortage of doctors

(Image: Getty/Jupiter Images)
New technology may be a way to train more surgeons around the globe. (Getty/Jupiter Images)

Technological innovations are transforming medical training and could help ease a global shortage of healthcare professionals.

One leader in the effort is Shafi Ahmed, a British colorectal surgeon, who last year used Snap Inc.’s high-tech spectacles and the Snapchat photo-sharing app to broadcast a real-time hernia operation to doctors and millions of curious viewers, according to Bloomberg Technology.

Ahmed, who connected with more than two million viewers for that Snapchat surgery, sees the social media platform as a promising way to help train the next generation of doctors, according to the article. And such efforts could help ease a projected global shortage of 15 million healthcare workers by 2030.

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Researchers are studying the effectiveness of digital learning to see if it is equivalent to traditional modes of education as medical schools and other organizations experiment with tech-driven tactics.

For example, Stanford Medicine is using a new software system that combines imaging from MRIs, CT scans and angiograms to create a three-dimensional model for physicians and patients to see and manipulate like a virtual reality game.

RELATED: Virtual reality holograms have power to transform medical education

“Medical education is ripe for disruption,” Marc M. Triola, M.D., associate dean for educational informatics at NYU Langone Health in New York, told Bloomberg. “Cutting-edge technologies such as virtual and augmented reality may quickly become standard-of-care and mainstream.”

But live-streaming surgeries has its critics. John Quinn, a vascular surgeon in Brisbane, Australia, and the executive director of surgical affairs with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, told Bloomberg it puts patient privacy at risk and isn’t a substitute for the experience of interacting with real patients.  

But researchers say the medical education system needs to keep pace with the latest technology and analytics tools to prepare physicians for an increasingly data-driven industry.