Can hospitals trust e-learning as a recruitment tool?
Electronic learning could enable millions of additional students around the world to access healthcare education—and it's just as effective as traditional learning, new research suggests.
e-Learning opportunities have been gaining acceptance in various forms, including stand-alone programs, distance-learning programs at traditional institutions and MOOCs. Now, they get a boost as a review commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) and carried out by Imperial College London concludes that e-learning is likely to be as effective as traditional methods for training health professionals.
The review is drawn from a total of 108 studies and shows that students acquire knowledge and skills through online and offline e-learning tools as well as or better than they do through traditional teaching.
The authors add that combining e-learning with traditional teaching is likely to be most suitable for courses that need to teach practical skills.
Dr. Erica Wheeler of WHO's Department of Health Workforce notes, "This report was commissioned by WHO to ensure that there is robust evidence to support the increase in the numbers of health workers being trained. There is also a need for the provision of guidance on what methods are most suitable and effective for different pedagogical approaches, in the light of ever-increasing demands and pressures faced by low and middle income countries to use technology to improve health workforce education and training."
The implications for US hospitals
The implications could be vast if e-learning is used to help train more health workers across the globe by enabling greater access to education. According to WHO, the world is short of 7.2 million healthcare professionals, and the number is growing. In the United States, ongoing concerns over the physician shortage has prompted many hospitals to turn to telemedicine and other digital tools to cope with patient volume. e-learning tools may not be optional but necessary for educational and healthcare organizations to embrace the digital age, in the US and beyond.
"e-Learning has become a differentiator and a recruitment tool for healthcare organizations, as well as a tool to help patients," says Tom Engdahl, CEO of Net Power & Light, which developed the Spin platform for group video collaboration and media and document sharing.
Here's how Engdahl tells Healthcare Dive he sees e-learning impacting US healthcare.
For teaching and learning:
"So many advances have occurred in healthcare—almost in rapid-fire fashion—that it has become nearly impossible to keep up with them," Engdahl says. "e-Learning tools are helping to fill the gap, as a much more efficient method of teaching and learning." For example, e-learning allows multiple providers to collaborate and train together in one or more clinical settings by viewing the same materials through collaborative tools.
"Another value of eLearning tools is that they are not just about learning, but about accountability," Engdahl says. "An instructor, such as a physician, who wants to improve the skills of his staff in providing care for diabetes can reach his 'students' wherever they are located—not just for education but to follow up easily to access their new skills."
"e-Learning may not have as direct an impact on attracting healthcare workers as it does on giving people a sense of inclusion in an organization," Engdahl says. "If you're trying to attract nurses to join your organization and because of a tight market you need to recruit from different countries, e-learning tools essentially become part of the organization's recruitment package and a means of quickly assessing and hiring A-list candidates."
As far as using e-learning to enable greater access to worldwide healthcare education, Dr. Josip Car of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London says, "There are still barriers that need to be overcome, such as access to computers, internet connections, and learning resources, and this could be helped by facilitating investments in ICT. Universities should encourage the development of e-learning curricula and use online resources to reach out to students internationally."
- Imperial College London eLearning as good as traditional training for health professionals