Medical Education in the 21st Century

Medical Education in the 21st Century

Stefane M. Kabene (University of Western Ontario, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-050-9.ch015
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Abstract

As with many disciplines, the fields of healthcare in general and medicine, in particular, have made vast strides in improving patient outcomes and healthcare delivery. But, have healthcare professionals and medical academia been able to maximize the utilization of new technologies to improve the delivery of the right knowledge, to the right people, at the right time across geographical boundaries? In order to provide the best quality of care, regardless of patient or provider location, specific issues must be addressed. Healthcare consumers and providers recognize that the system is often over worked, time constrained, poorly funded and desperately in need of a means to maintain up-to-date knowledge and efficient skills in order to deliver the best quality of care (Health Canada, 1998). We also know that there is a large disparity in both the quality and types of healthcare available between developed and developing countries (Lown, Bukuchi & Xavier, 1998). Within a single country there are also differences in healthcare services based upon location (rural vs. urban areas), wealth, age, gender and a host of other factors (Health Canada, 2004). However, because Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be a simple and cost effective tool, it can make desperately needed medical knowledge available to developing coun tries (Pakenham-Walsh, Smith & Priestly, 1997). Furthermore, it is becoming more difficult to get physicians and extended healthcare professionals to participate in face-to-face seminars in order to learn about the progress and changes in the delivery of healthcare. Time, travel requirements and cost are the biggest barriers to overcome. For rural areas and developing countries these issues are even more evident (Ernst and Young, 1998). Today, many institutions and countries are exploring and implementing ICT solutions to help reduce these inequities. The fact remains however that in the case of developing countries, a critical shortage of healthcare professionals remains (Fraser and McGrath, 2000). Adding to the problem is the fact that the telecommunications network, the backbone of ICT, in Africa is the least developed in the world (Coeur de Roy, 1997) This article concentrates on two main aspects of ICT. First, it examines ways in which ICT can assist in information and knowledge transfer and second, it explores the challenges of ICT implementation.

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