Education on demand coming to a radiology department near you

January 27, 2005

Imagine turning minutes of downtime during the workday into valuable CME credits. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have taken advantage of information technology to develop an electronic learning environment that provides radiological education on demand.

Imagine turning minutes of downtime during the workday into valuable CME credits. Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin have taken advantage of information technology to develop an electronic learning environment that provides radiological education on demand.

"What we wanted to do was try and deliver educational 'intervention' at the moment it is needed," said lead author Dr. Charles E. Kahn, a professor of radiology and medical informatics at the college.

Describing the architecture of the educational environment during an RSNA informatics session, Kahn outlined the system's four main components:

* Curriculum - allows the learner to define relevant educational materials and to monitor educational progress.

Presentation - displays learning modules based on the curriculum and clinical context.

* Assessment - scores the user's responses for self-assessment purposes.

* Feedback - allows users to provide feedback evaluating the quality of educational materials.

To plug into a clinical context, an e-learning system must be integrated with radiology information systems, PACS, and clinical decision support systems, Kahn said. To facilitate this level of integration, investigators used the clinical context object workgroup (CCOW) standard. The standard is vendor-independent and provides context management for the system.

The ultimate goal of the system is to deliver content in relatively small nuggets. Because of its assessment capability, it not only can deliver self-evaluation for system users but can also measure how the additional education is actually affecting patient outcomes, Kahn said.

An audience member asked how on-demand learning, even if it is only for 10 or 20 minutes, can fit into already-overworked radiologists' workflows.

Kahn responded that radiologists already engage in daily learning when they encounter clinical questions for which they don't have answers, but they call it decision support. This system is simply an extension of that process.

The just-in-time learning model will be more of a complement to traditional CME meetings than a substitute for them, he said. The Medical College of Wisconsin plans to implement its system in a PACS/RIS environment within six to 12 months.