When Covid cancelled a medical school’s in-person workshop, ThingLink provided a realistic scenario where students pieced together individual data to diagnose and create a patient management plan.
As well as offering medicine degrees, University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine runs graduate and postgraduate courses for health professionals, developing their skills and knowledge. Dr Abhi Jones is the Clinical Lead for Interprofessional Education at the School of Medicine and had created a programme for medical students working in inter-disciplinary teams to practise real-world observational and management skills. Her teaching materials had to fulfil two purposes: to teach students about the different professionals that they'd work with throughout their career, but also to develop their understanding of the different roles and disciplines within medicine such as public health, psychology and sociology.
Focus on Frailty
Frailty is a condition that is increasingly becoming a hot topic in medicine. In part that’s due to the overall ageing of our populations, with many people becoming frail as they age - although it occurs in the young too. Regardless of age, it usually aggravates otherwise minor ailments, so is an important consideration in medicine. Abhi and her colleagues had planned an inter-professional event to focus on a typical scenario where frailty was a key factor.
Health care students across seven different disciplines were to take part - representing medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, paramedics, social work and Physician Associates. In real life situations, doctors work together with these professions to create a joint patient management plan. A live training event was planned for 345 attendees, but cancelled due to Covid restrictions. So Abhi and her team had to find a way to bring a realistic scenario to life online.
The course had been designed to develop observational as well as management skills. Students would be required to add the visual clues provided in the course materials to their prior knowledge of the patient, building up a picture of the patient’s situation and deciding on the best course of action.
As Abhi puts it: “Health professionals need to be able to look carefully - it's a difficult skill to learn, we needed a very visual tool which could realistically reproduce a real-life home visit"
Dr Abhilasha Jones
Abhi’s scenario was based around a fictional patient who suffered from frailty and had fallen at home. “Florence Williamson” was an elderly black lady isolating in her house; her family normally provided daily help, but they were unable to under Covid restrictions. Unable to source any photographs of this exact scenario, Abhi staged and photographed a setting using a 360 camera, which would form the basis of her ThingLink.
Each disciplinary team in a scenario like this would enter the room armed with prior information - to which the other health teams wouldn’t be party. To reflect this, Abhi ingeniously cloned one ThingLink of her “home setting” image five times, and added different relevant information in each of the five separate versions. Within the scene itself, she had also placed various signs and indicators for all the teams to spot. For example a walking frame used for storage rather than for walking; bags of shopping left unpacked; medicines still in their packaging. Abhi then added various types of tag, including an audio file of a telephone call between the paramedic and GP, medical notes and images.
Piecing their combined information, insights and conclusions together, the thirty multidisciplinary teams then each were tasked with producing a management plan for Florence, each plan co-created with Padlet.
A powerful training tool
As Abhi says “It's so important to get teams to look at patient safety - and to say what they can see. We needed to create a real world picture”. The ability to present a 360 image of a patient’s home, with visual clues and rich media tags included, gave the most realistic online representation of the patient environment when in-person training was impossible.
Abhi believes that educational materials don’t need to follow traditional didactic models to be effective, and has been using ThingLink in new and innovative ways to create really inspiring training materials. Her next project will see her creating an escape room with ThingLink. A clinical environment will be presented, with a simulated patient and all the equipment that students might require will be placed in “locked boxes”. These can only be opened by solving puzzles and answering questions which are embedded in the tags.
Necessity is the mother of invention”
“Face-to-face tuition remains a vital element of our medical programmes but the application of new technology is delivering real innovation in the curriculum and providing our students with a fantastic learning experience.” Dr Abhi Jones