As much as AIMed would love to involve everyone ranging from medical professionals, technology experts, business partners, and patients to explore the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and related new technologies on healthcare and medicine; medical students have been the trickiest to do so. 

About a year ago, the platform tried to contact medical students and trainee doctors within the UK, for their opinions on whether technology has already steeped into their education and what they think could have done more. Of all that we have approached, only two students from the University of Sheffield and the University of Birmingham replied. The formal said mobile applications are inseparable parts of their curriculum. “TurningPoint” and “Brainscape” are two most often used mobile applications that medical students from the institution used to quiz themselves of respective knowledge. 

The latter said a Technology, Industry, and Medical Entrepreneurship Society (TIMESoc) was started to encourage the institution to take up some of these technologies and test them out in a classroom setting. However, there is still a long way to go at the moment, there is not enough quantitative evidence to show the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of these technologies. 

Lack of unified training 

Fast forward a year later, in the recent AIMed Europe 2019, six students from Imperial College London who undertook a 10-week computational medicine course; presented their abstract ideas on how AI, machine learning algorithms and neural network models can each overcome a unique medical challenge. At the same time, Dr. Antanas Montvila, Board Member of European Junior Doctors gave a separate talk which questioned the readiness of European junior doctors in face of a digital revolution.

Six students from Imperial College London presented their abstract ideas on stage.

Dr. Montvila said there is a general feeling of hesitancy. Junior doctors are aware of the possible challenges facing them and they yearn for opportunities to work even more closely together. Nevertheless, there is a lack of unified training at both national and international levels and digital maturity across Europe, remains unequal and fragmented. For example, as the UK has recently invested £250 million pounds in AI research, other parts of Europe such as Southern Italy; are still heavily relying on paper. 

Besides, collaborations between academia and industry happen for innovation purposes and not for validation. Thus far, according to Dr. Montvila, only about 6% of the AI-driven solutions are validated. This contradicts with the evidence-based training which junior doctors have been adhering all along. As more and more of these solutions enter the market, junior doctors, most often, are pressured and overwhelmed. 

Dr. Antanas Montvila presenting on stage.

Learn from the leading examples 

Despite so, European junior doctors are not shying themselves away. As Dr. Montvila mentioned, during a meeting took place this April, board members and junior doctor representatives had briefly agreed the advancement of digital knowledge, skills and competency are the new core components of training for future and current doctors. There is also a need to promote innovative structures and networks to create diversity in digital skill training for medical professionals. 

Dr. Montvila cited the Topol Review from the UK, which prepares medical workforce to deliver a digital future; CanMed, The Netherland’s initiative to denote one’s digital competency based on different levels, and Finland’s effort to provide free online courses and begin to use clinical decision support tools are all leading examples that other European countries can learn from. Overall, Dr. Montvila said junior doctors regard working together and more active exchanges of ideas as the possible future, but whether standardization can be rolled out and achieved across Europe, it remains a question and a huge challenge. 

Author Bio
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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in the current affair, culture, and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.