Medical education is entering a new age, and technology plays a vital role in it

When we think of medical education, it’s important to focus on its real purpose, which is not passing exams, or coming top of your class, or getting an A in microbiology…

The purpose of medical education is to make you a skilful practitioner who is able to work with all your peers and other multidisciplinary professionals alike to help patients get better. That is the goal of all medical education, and that is what we need to keep in mind.

The duty of medicine itself has remained a constant over the years: the health and wellbeing of the patient is paramount. Technology provides new ways to do that, but it is not a substitute for the care of the patient. And the same is true of medical education, there are now advances in technological tools that can assist medical students to become medical doctors. 

While the purpose is the same, the practice of medicine is changing: what future doctors will do, and what skills they will need will be very different from what they do and need currently.

Broadly, those skills and needs can be described through three key themes in medicine:

  • Firstly, the patient is changing: patients are getting older and having multiple overlapping diseases and concerns
  • Secondly, the patient is becoming more of an active participant in their own care: they are no longer objects of medical practice, they are partners in the process alongside the medical staff
  • Finally, there are new disciplines that were never a part of medical endeavour: think of big data, systems biology, or genomics…

The emergence of these additional new areas in healthcare places more pressure on today’s students, who will be required to understand and adapt to them as doctors of tomorrow. In order to flourish they will have to behave in different ways than their predecessors used to. New technologies need to enable the role of a doctor to evolve in accordance with these changing pressures. This may mean shifting from being an expert in a subject matter to being someone who can solve problems not only using that subject matter knowledge, but also applying the latest evidence and inputs from multi-disciplinary teams.

As the scope of being a doctor of tomorrow evolves, so should the medical education of today. Fundamentally, the purpose of medical education is still to create great doctors, but our new role is to try to identify those technological advances which will create substantive, measurable, and meaningful improvements in education that medical students will get a deep benefit from.


David Game
eProduct Director, Education EMEALAAP, Elsevier

David has spent the last sixteen years in e-product development and management in the higher education sector. Prior to working at Elsevier, David managed the Mastering platform, an innovative adaptive higher education science learning and assessment platform.

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