Message From Dr. Richardson: Jumpstarting educational technology

June 24, 2013


Dear School of Medicine Community:

The Blue Ridge Academic Health Group recently issued a new report titled Health Professions Education: Accelerating Innovation through Technology. The timing and topic of this report reflects a clear consensus about the need for action from medical schools to create a future in which online learning platforms and related technology better serve our outcomes. In 2011, I was honored to be invited to join the Blue Ridge group, and this latest report is the first one in which I participated.

The mission of the Blue Ridge Group is to "take a societal view of health and health care needs and to identify recommendations for academic health centers to create greater value for society." The group has now issued 17 reports. A book based on the first seven reports, titled The Academic Health Center: Leadership and Performance, was published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press.

Given our own M.D. Curriculum Transformation initiative, this latest report is particularly relevant. While our initiative is broader than educational technology, the Blue Ridge report provides compelling options to stimulate aspects of our own ongoing discussions, and allows us to gain insight from peer experiences.

The Blue Ridge Group was co-chaired by Claire Pomeroy, M.D., MBA, then dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California-Davis; and Wright Caughman, M.D., executive vice president for health affairs at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. During working sessions, the members received briefings from leaders in a variety of institutions who shared their experiences leveraging technology for health professions education.

The key question the group discussed is 'how can health professional schools and academic health centers leverage education technology to jumpstart needed changes in health professional education and accelerate innovations that will pave the way for longer term and larger scale transformations?'

The italics are mine because I think this is one of the keys to our future. The changes we implement now related to online learning platforms are just a beginning in what will be a sea change. As we come to fully understand their potential, they will catalyze innovations across all our missions in an expanding ripple effect for decades to come. The recent on-campus 125th Anniversary Lecture by Eric Topol, M.D., director, Scripps Translational Science Institute, captured this accelerating evolution very well. Titled "How digitizing human beings reboots the future of medicine," Dr. Topol presented a compelling vision of a future in which wireless tools loaded onto a smart phone, for example, will fundamentally shift how human physiological data are generated, how health care services are accessed and who (what?) is interpreting health care data and providing services. A video of the lecture has been posted.

The Blue Ridge report specifically makes a strong case for why medical schools must transform their educational programs. We have been making the same case as we redesign our M.D. program curriculum. The conclusions are anchored in our shared belief that the role of academic medicine is to meet the needs of society, patients and our students in ways that maximize the return on the investment society makes in us, across all our missions. Better leveraging technology can help us do that.

I welcome your comments and observations on this topic generally, and on the contents of the report specifically. You can read the full report online here.

Best Regards,

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson, M.D., MBA
Dean, OHSU School of Medicine
President, Faculty Practice Plan