e-Learning tool provides on-demand PACS training

January 3, 2008

Belgian researchers have designed a user-centered e-learning system that incorporates a psychological technique called cognitive load theory to provide on-demand, in-depth knowledge of PACS for end-user physicians.

Belgian researchers have designed a user-centered e-learning system that incorporates a psychological technique called cognitive load theory to provide on-demand, in-depth knowledge of PACS for end-user physicians.

Training referring physicians to handle digital images can be a challenge, especially in large academic hospital settings.

"Our e-learning application is user-adaptable because users decide whether they need in-depth information on a topic or merely an overview of functionality," said industrial engineer Pieter Devolder of the radiology department at Ghent University Hospital.

Cognitive load theory models different types of strain that occurs when people learn. The concept has been thoroughly studied in other areas but has not often been applied to medical software. Devolder said its use in his e-learning tool ensures that the mental effort necessary to process new information is minimized (J Digit Imaging 2007 Nov 13 [Epub ahead of print]).

"Physicians are not required to spend large amounts of time studying new imaging functionality," he said.

The Ghent University model consists of 126 separate and dynamic slides. All PACS functionalities, tools, and features are discussed and explained. The system is integrated into the PACS viewer and can be accessed by clicking the question mark icon.

The system is accessible at all times from every onsite and offsite hospital computer. Physicians can use it on their own time and absorb it at their own pace, eliminating the necessity of rescheduling agendas to accommodate PACS training. Using a digital e-learning tool shifts responsiblity for learning onto the physician.

"On an organizational level, departments no longer have to invest time and resources in providing PACS training," Devolder said.

Impetus for the tool originated in Devolder's belief that the main actors in a complex environment such as healthcare, the physicians, must be safeguarded from extraneous cognitive load.

"By taking the learner's interests at heart, we are able to produce a more robust training system that heightens the possibility of knowledge transfer with minimal effort for the learner," he said.

Devolder said providing PACS training in his 1169-bed hospital with 600 busy physicians was a constant worry. His e-learning tool provides a possible solution.

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