How can Technology Enhanced Learning improve patient safety in hospitals?
Jan Zottmann, a TEL researcher and PhD student at KMRC, explains. He has worked on an interdisciplinary project on simulation based learning in medical education. This project is a cooperation of KMRC and the Center for Patient Safety and Simulation (TuPASS), Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Tuebingen, Tuebingen University Medical School.
Recent US-based studies have shown that up to 100.000 people a year there may be dying unnecessarily as a result of human error in crisis medical situations. German medical students learn how to deal with these crisis situations through 15 key points of Crisis Resource Management (e.g. Rall & Gaba, 2005*). However, these points are theoretical and turning that into real life, albeit simulated situations, is necessary so that these students can really learn.
Jan’s research has focused on how these key points of Crisis Resource Management can be learnt through active participation on one hand and structured observation on the other – by applying theory of Technology Enhanced Learning in practice.
Jan talks about his research
“You need more than just medical factual knowledge to be successful as a health professional – effective communication and adequate strategies to prevent and handle critical incidents are essential aspects when you have to perform in a medical crisis situation. My research looks at how Technology Enhanced Learning can help train medical students perform more efficiently in emergency health situations and therefore improve patient safety. Results of my studies point out new ways to improve simulation-based medical training courses.”
Jan goes on to explain more about his research: “Students have to cope with a computer-controlled patient simulator, a kind of mannequin in the emergency room of a hospital. Medical training staff can see into the room through one-way glass and get the mannequin to respond to the students, depending on what they do to it. The key is how students react, to ensure their instructions are clearly understood by others around. For example, what and how they ask colleagues to help, when fetching medication or instruments from another room nearby.
The link between Technology Enhanced Learning and raising patient safety may be seen as tenuous. For TuPASS staff, Dr. Marcus Rall and Dr. Peter Dieckmann, it is clearly understood that integrating the key points of Crisis Resource Management into medical training courses can be highly beneficial for medical professionals and help reduce the chance for human error; their team also investigates what is needed to enhance training, besides having a high-technology simulator. TEL researchers can help to design better learning environments for highly important, life saving fields, together with medical educators.”
Jan's work demonstrates one very important area where research outputs could be potentially incorporated into medical education – and contribute to raising patient safety, ultimately saving lives.
What message does Jan have for Policy Makers?
It is well understood since the latest PISA studies of the OECD , that education has to be improved in Germany in order to prepare students for the challenges of the knowledge society. This is an aim, however, that cannot be achieved by teachers or politicians on their own - in my opinion, interdisciplinary research projects like the one described above as well as extensive exchange between scientists, practitioners and politicians are essential if we want to increase science-based teaching and educational decision-making.
Why should the public at large be interested in this research?
While it may sound a bit strange at first, research in technology enhanced learning can in fact help save lives - by raising patient safety! It is of great importance that educational researchers continue to collaborate with medical educators to achieve the best quality of education for today’s medical students and minimize human error. In the end, all of us may depend on their abilities one day…
What have been the benefits to KMRC of being a member of the Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence?
The Kaleidoscope network has given me the opportunity to get in touch with other TEL researchers from Europe and learn about their projects, thus broadening the perspectives for my own work.
What should happen after Kaledoscope?
One can only hope there will be another organization or project to follow the footsteps of Kaleidoscope, maybe partly in the shape of the new, smaller, and more dynamic networks of excellence. As I see it, there is no alternative to working collaboratively across educational, computer and social science on a European level if we want to increase the quality and reach of learning substantially.
*Rall, M. & Gaba, D.M. (2005). Human Performance and Patient Safety. In R.D. Miller (Ed.), Anaestesiology. Baltimore: Lippincott.