As Canada’s population ages, the urgency to meet these demographic demands is spurring innovation in the healthcare sector.

“Every day, new medical technologies are developed that enable healthcare professionals to vastly enhance patient care — improving patient outcomes, reducing recovery times and transforming the patient experience,” says Brian Lewis, President and CEO of MEDEC — an organization representing Canada’s medical technology.

But technology is also changing the way budding physicians learn and hone their skills.

Teaching from a distance

While the healthcare sector has employed videoconferencing for patient consultations from afar for years, Dr. Ryan Palmer, an assistant professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, decided to turn that technique inwards, creating a curriculum fine-tuned for a virtual classroom.

He brought the concept to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) as an education consultant, piloting a program called “Transition to Clinical Medicine” last August.

“Through our program, they can still meet virtually and have robust experiences.”

“AUC’s medical students study on their campus in St. Maarten for the first two years, where they build a strong community of collaborative learning. Then they disperse for their third and fourth year clinical locations,” says Palmer pointing out students may train hospitals in Canada or in far-flung spots like California or the U.K. “Through our program, they can still meet virtually and have robust experiences.”

But AUC isn’t the only school in the Caribbean turning to technology to challenge geography.

Ross University School of Medicine on Dominica introduced its own take on e-learning via the Renaissance Program, an online community that supplements clinical clerkships. It goes hand in hand with the medical school’s goal to support knowledge acquisition and skills development with technology.

“This year Ross is coming out with its own iPad which is a product of cooperation with Apple, the University of California, Irvine and other partners,” says Dr. Joseph Flaherty, Dean and Chancellor of RUSM. “It will have a wealth of required readings as well reference texts and imaging to improve the student’s learning experience.”

As medical schools adapt, partnerships and cross-pollination between healthcare and tech companies will only lead to further innovative developments.

“The sky really is the limit in terms of what will be developed next,” adds Lewis.