The term “disruptive technology” entered our culture in 1997, when a Harvard Business School professor coined the phrase to describe a new form of technology that shakes up an industry by displacing an established one. But NYU School of Medicine actually embraced the concept more than a decade earlier, when six medical students and their faculty adviser launched the Hippocrates Project, exploring innovative ways to apply computer technologies to support medical education. Over the next 30 years, that cadre of dreamers evolved into what is now one of the largest medical education innovation groups in the country. The Institute for Innovations in Medical Education (IIME), a multidisciplinary team of 23 full-time staff and more than 30 affiliate faculty—educators, education scientists, informaticians, and developers—is not only shaking up medical education, but moving it into the 21st century.
“New technologies are merely a means to an end. The goal is to improve the ways we teach and learn.” —Marc M. Triola, MD, Director of the IIME, Associate Dean for Educational Informatics
By harnessing the power of information technology across a broad spectrum—from big-data analytics to connectivity that links people to people, people to machines, and machines to machines—the IIME is transforming the ways we teach and learn. Using analytics to individualize and personalize medical education, it takes into account each learner’s unique background, experiences, and aptitude, and at the same time, makes possible a truly integrated curriculum. With ever increasing amounts of data collected along the educational continuum, NYU School of Medicine can apply big data techniques, such as data mining and predictive modeling, to key questions about its course of study: How do elements from preclerkship and clerkship experiences connect to each other? How should students be guided in their studying? Which clinical encounters have the most impact?
“New technologies are merely a means to an end. The goal is to improve the ways we teach and learn,” says Marc M. Triola, MD, director of the IIME and associate dean for educational informatics. “Paradoxically, I think computer- and web-based tools create more, not fewer, opportunities for faculty and students to interact in productive and engaging ways. They also give students more control over their education content—when, where, and how they access it, and how they organize it.”
One example is iBeacons, tiny Bluetooth transmitters that are able to sense the location of the user’s smartphone or iPad and transmit personalized messages to it. Working with the Morphological and Developmental Basis of Medicine faculty, the IIME has piloted iBeacons in the anatomy laboratory. When students enter the lab, the iBeacons send them proximity-aware content—the materials they will need for that session, such as PDFs, web pages, or videos. The iBeacons can even direct a student to explore specific parts of the body using three-dimensional models of cadavers or pathology specimens, depending on the student’s physical location within the lab and where they are in their coursework.
Data from students’ iPads are continually collected in NYU Langone Health’s Education Data Warehouse. This information, drawn from an array of sources, can be mined for strategic planning and to measure performance and competencies, but it also impacts patient care. By aligning the school’s curriculum with clinical data, the IIME is closing the gap between medical education and the fast-changing world of healthcare delivery.
“We’re getting a fine-grained perspective on what our learners are encountering, and we’re adjusting our training accordingly,” says Dr. Triola. “And for the first time, we’re doing it in a data-driven way.” Dr. Triola and his team are now beginning to merge their “e-learning” data with public data sources to track NYU School of Medicine graduates beyond the institution. “The untapped potential of big data to inform and improve medical education is enormous,” says Dr. Triola.