Thanks to funding provided by Stellenbosch University's (SU) Fund for Innovation and Research into Learning and Teaching (FIRLT), video-conferencing facilities and off-site neurology training can now be implemented at three clinical learning centres across the Western Cape.
The aim of this project is to facilitate online tutorials, collaboration and research between the University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and the clinical platform, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.
The SUNStream-integrated setup – which makes use of a smart television, the Adobe Connect app, a webcam, as well as a wireless keyboard and mouse – will be installed at Khayelitsha Hospital, Worcester Hospital and Ceres Hospital – three hospitals where Stellenbosch University medical students currently train. The research arm of the project will be centred around the students' learning experiences and whether they find the video-conferencing facilities useful, or not.
“The project originates from the fact that we give tutorials to final-year medical students, and that students on clinical rotations at Khayelitsha Hospital need to return to Tygerberg Hospital for these tutorials," explains Prof Jonathan Carr, Head of the Division of Neurology at the Department of Medicine at SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), and principal investigator on the project. This project would make it unnecessary for students to return to Tygerberg, since they could participate in the tutorials while training remotely.
The hospitals that form part of the project were selected on a historical basis. “The Division of Neurology has a long history of performing outreach to Worcester Hospital, and carrying out video tutorials has long been an ambition of mine," says Carr. “Part of our teaching platform consists of giving bedside tutorials in basic neurological assessment to final-year medical students. It seems utterly appropriate that we should endeavour to do the same for students who can't come to Tygerberg Hospital."
Students are sent to Khayelitsha and other community hospitals and clinics as part of the FMHS's community-based training initiative that enables students to receive training in the environments where they will work one day. “They're part of the final-year student intern group," Carr continues. “As do many students, they view neurology with some apprehension and are therefore keen to get as much teaching as possible."
In time, the project will save time and costs. “We should be able to cut down on the waste of time that's inherent to transport back and forth to Khayelitsha Hospital. We should also be able to demonstrate that it's possible to give what's effectively a bedside tutorial by long-distance video communication to students at Worcester," says Carr.
The project team has recently been joined by Dr Francois Coetzee, programme coordinator for SU's Rural Clinical School in Worcester. At his suggestion, the team is planning to also extend the video links to Ceres Hospital.
“A benefit of using the SUNStream platform is that video streaming can be done with very low bandwidth. The technology can also be used on different devices, including computers, cellphones and smart TVs," adds Coetzee. “The hope is that the neurology training will eventually lead to fewer and more appropriate referrals to secondary and tertiary-care facilities."
Caption: Prof Jonathan Carr, Head of the Division of Neurology at the Department of Medicine at SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).
Photo: Damien Schumann