A Brave New World

Textbooks represent a foundation of knowledge that is evidence based, peer reviewed and carefully curated. I believe that mastering the fundamental aspects of physiology during medical school is essential, hence textbooks cannot be eliminated. However, global digitalisation and the changing needs of society demand an overhaul of traditional methods of education, going beyond textbooks, to incorporate new technologies.

Medicine is in a perpetual state of evolution. While textbooks undergo periodic revisions, these updates may not enough be to keep up with rapid advancements in research. Information available online is updated and accessed instantly. In its simplest form, digital versions of textbooks are available worldwide, often accessible at no cost through library services. However, the integration of technology into education extends far beyond, from using online quiz platforms, to simulation training. Virtual learning environments, even in their infancy, have already shown to be effective educational tools, for example in practicing surgical skills(1).   

Textbooks are often authored by a privileged few speaking on the behalf of many, relying on data that has historically unrepresented women and ethnic minorities(2). Technology has the capacity to dismantle such barriers, empowering individuals not only to engage with educational content but to generate their own. Tele-conferencing can empower educators to bridge gaps and learn directly from patients from across the globe.

At the peak of the pandemic, during my penultimate year of medical school, my ability to attend the wards was restricted. My tutors embraced online learning, creating videos in which they demonstrated examination skills on their own children. Online classes and hybrid education have since become enduring features of the educational landscape(3). 

There are inevitably concerns about technology replacing textbooks, such as the potential lack of peer review and susceptibility to misinformation. However, the rapidly evolving digital landscape is accompanied by the development of essential regulations. For instance, the new ‘YouTube Health’ initiative uses healthcare content creators to mitigate the spread of false news(4). 

It is no overestimation to say that artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionise medical research, practice and education(5). AI can be used to deliver personalised learning content, and its predictive analytics capabilities can identify students at risk of falling behind, allowing for early intervention. 

The amount of medical knowledge available today exceeds the capacity of one human mind6. AI has the capability to process data faster and on a larger scale than humans, and medical education should teach physicians how to work with AI, as it becomes a part of the fabric of everyday life. This should include teaching to interpret AI generated data, shifting the focus from information acquisition(5). Cultivating curiosity and teaching critical analysis is thus more important than rote learning. Medicine at its core is an art, and the importance of human connection, empathy and touch cannot be underestimated. The use of such technology will give physicians more time to focus on these aspects. 

Technology has the power to revolutionise medical education, in a way that will ultimately enhance patient care. Embracing technology will ensure that future generations of physicians are trained to adapt to medicine’s dynamic nature. In the words of astronomer Carl Sagan, “somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”(7) 


1 Gallagher, A. G. et al. Prospective, randomized assessment of transfer of training (ToT) and transfer effectiveness ratio (TER) of virtual reality simulation training for laparoscopic skill acquisition. Ann Surg 257, 1025-1031, doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e318284f658 (2013).

2 Fox-Rawlings, S. R., Gottschalk, L. B., Doamekpor, L. A. & Zuckerman, D. M. Diversity in Medical Device Clinical Trials: Do We Know What Works for Which Patients? Milbank Q 96, 499-529, doi:10.1111/1468-0009.12344 (2018).

3 Tokuc, B. & Varol, G. Medical Education in the ERA of Advancing Technology. Balkan Medical Journal, doi:10.4274/balkanmedj.galenos.2023.2023-7-79 (2023).

4 Lang, R. YouTube begins verifying videos by UK doctors to tackle health misinformation, <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/youtube-bbc-britons-more-brits-b2407715.html> (2023).

5 Wartman, S. A. & Combs, C. D. Medical Education Must Move From the Information Age to the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Acad Med 93, 1107-1109, doi:10.1097/acm.0000000000002044 (2018).

6 Obermeyer, Z. & Lee, T. H. Lost in Thought - The Limits of the Human Mind and the Future of Medicine. N Engl J Med 377, 1209-1211, doi:10.1056/NEJMp1705348 (2017).

7 "Carl Sagan Quotes." Quotes.net., <https://www.quotes.net/quote/8744> (2023).

Log in | Powered by White Fuse