Buildings and Places, COVID19, Education, Healthcare, Strategy+

Learning from extensive pandemic-driven shifts and given that training should reflect the future practice environment, we have been holding discussions with medical education leaders to understand how activities and places for learning will change post COVID-19.

The general consensus is that while some medical education aspects will revert to the status quo, many will change. Schools are already looking at ways to enhance accessibility, improve quality and grow enrollments, as well as raise productivity and reduce costs. Now is the time to investigate the interface between technology and human experience and plan for adjusting resources, finances and systems to deliver the future culture of learning.

We have identified six key questions that leaders, planners and educators should address in planning for future education delivery:

    1. What is the future of the classroom?

    Reduce classrooms, invest in targeted in-person experiences and high-efficacy online learning
    While expanding a video-based approach for the pandemic has been successful, post-pandemic, we predict a significant increase in online, interactive, personalized forms of digital learning. This will be balanced with a much reduced in-person capacity aimed at consolidating facilities and reducing costs, while still personally engaging students, building interpersonal and cultural strengths and assessing them against measurable outcomes.

    Future knowledge building will not simply be video, but the application of artificial intelligence in “thinking machines” to provide learning content and assessments that can adaptively interact with students using text and voice. Learning analytics collects information about the process and outcomes of learning that are essential to enable educators to evaluate their curriculum and pedagogies in relation to the progress of their students.

    2. What is the future of skills development?

    Shift teaching resources to team-based skills development through virtual, augmented reality and research
    Learning in the medical domain, is mainly workplace learning, and while there may be a decline in classrooms, we believe there will be a significant increase in the use of simulation, and laboratory learning through increasingly sophisticated immersion and haptic interaction. Responding to student demand for research experience, direct patient and cadaver interaction, these will take place both in-school and elsewhere. Interactions will increasingly be team-based, interprofessional and interdisciplinary.

    We see major developments in moving capital investments and learning resources into augmented and virtual reality — overlays of virtual objects on the real-world environment and use of robotic techniques will increasingly be used in clinical situations. Sophisticated high-fidelity environments will fully immerse teams that are learning in multiple locations in a wholly digital environment.

    3. How will we reimagine the doctor-patient relationship?

    Increase training in digital soft skills, telemedicine and AI
    The era of virtual visit has been coming for some time. Growth in telemedicine has determined that clinical rotations/clerkships and standardized patient engagements and will be digital as much as in-person. Trainees will learn new methods of digital engagement designed to elevate social skills, enhance examinations, undertaking effective diagnosis while maintaining the trusted doctor-patient relationship.

    As the pandemic recedes, there will be a return to in-person patient encounters, but in line with the growth of Internet of Things technologies, sensors, mobile devices and wearables, trainees will need to learn techniques in the monitoring of patient health through the assembly of multiple data sources.

    4. How will we engage our communities?

    Build personalized CME, increase branded virtual outreach
    For the attending or practicing provider, continuing education has also been turned on its head. Large events where a physician could quickly fulfill nearly all their annual CME credits, such as grand rounds and society meetings, have been canceled. In the future, these will be at a smaller scale, with a shift toward more manageable, focused personalized agendas. This will be more conducive to learning and retaining important information than large, conference-based education.

    Conversely, community forums, major domestic and international events — will return. We are developing opportunities to merge the hyper-personal into the hyper-community by learning from the world of sports and entertainment. Even smaller schools can build a brand and demonstrate unique capabilities by harnessing the use of apps, podcasts, video and large-scale online simulation to generate crowdsourced content that can be individually personalized.

    5. What will happen to student life and culture?

    Invest in virtual services and targeted, personalized support
    The culture of identity and belonging has been severely tested through the pandemic. We are already assisting schools in realigning and integrating resources to merge academic support and learning into innovative post-pandemic shared services models and study initiatives. These increase the effectiveness of targeted support interventions, improve equity, diversity and inclusion and strengthen student culture.

    This model leverages a concierge concept where online services provide a first point of contact, at the second level, an identified concierge acts as a point of contact for a group of students and faculty, providing familiarity and responsibility, but also providing deliberate hand offs and follow up with subject matter experts in wellness, career, financial and learning support.

    6. What will become of the office?

    Raise workplace quality and utilization, invest in mobility, training and technology
    There is no such thing as student success without staff and faculty success. The current situation has brought into sharp focus the up and downsides of mobile, agile working, teaching and researching. Our current planning for the future of work indicates that future medical education will be defined by the training and development programs offered to faculty, and the flexibility of working styles available to staff.

    We see the office of the future being a multimodal consolidated portfolio of focused digital and physical capabilities. Physically, there will be a much smaller footprint focused on increased utilization by a smaller number of transient occupants, and focused on student engagement, assisted multimedia content creation and learning delivery. This will be bolstered by a high degree of investment in high-bandwidth, high-quality software and hardware.

Learn about Strategy+, AECOM’s management consulting group, created to fill a gap in the market for creatively conceived enterprise transformation services that link business analytics with human performance opportunities and infrastructure optimization.

Originally published Dec 16, 2020

Author: Mark Whiteley