Back to the Future

As John Dickinson was appointed chairman of medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, the center of further development and professionalization of the Mac series moved with him. The advent of personal computers could have facilitated the dissemination of the Mac series, though their prevailing archaic user interface proved to be a barrier to broader acceptance by students.

Computer models today play a very small role in medical education, except for training in endoscopy and minimally invasive surgery. The Mac series of 'medical, educational computer simulations' fell into oblivion.

From the dawn of civilization on, complex competencies have been taught by a coordinated combination of direct instruction, supervised practice, and corrective feedback. Both 'in-vivo' and 'in-vitro' practice tasks have been employed. The former are more authentic but raise ethical, practical, and economic issues, while the latter tend to be more readily available and carry little risk.

Based on realistic computer models, "video games" using modern graphical user interfaces could provide unlimited opportunities for stimulating 'in-vitro' practice. Computer models are highly scalable, as long as they do not require complex user interfaces. In fact, most will run in web browsers, as this website demonstrates. Similarly, social games could be developed to practice interpersonal competencies.

The cost-effectiveness of computer simulators to train pilots is attested by the fact that:

Flight simulator market size reached USD 6.90 Billion in 2021 and is expected to register a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.7% during the forecast period, according to latest analysis by Emergen Research. (Bloomberg, 3 January 2023)

In a similar vein, user acceptance of the video game paradigm by young adults is supported by:

The global gaming market size is anticipated to reach USD 504.29 billion by 2030, exhibiting a CAGR of 10.2% during the forecast period, according to a new report published by Grand View Research, (Bloomberg, 8 Aug. 2023)

These data suggest that catching up with missed opportunities by systematically developing and introducing practice simulators for medical education could result in significant gains in both the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of medical education.

To be effective, the scope of practice simulators would have to cover the whole gamut of undergraduate, postgraduate, and continuing medical education. Their content would have to be both scientifically solid and didactically sound. Developing such a library would require a Herculean effort exceeding the capacity of any one individual medical school. Only a large national, or even better, international collaboration could fill the bill.

But it would not even be necessary to create a 'Brick and Stone' institute for this purpose. A virtual organisation, not unlike GitHub, would be perfectly suitable to fuse the required expertise from the staff of the partner institutions online.

  • Realistic, user-friendly computer simulations,
  • as potentially pivotal tools in Medical Education,
  • an idea in search of leadership.