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Doctor, switch off the scanner and pass the popcorn

The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Health Sciences is pioneering a fresh take in online professional-development courses. Directed and shot by film-industry professional Ken Moffatt (who worked on Muriel’s Wedding, Sea Patrol, The Marine) the new video series combines the engagement of a TED talk, the accuracy and visual materials of documentary filmmaking and the content of a great university lecture—in episodes designed to improve clinical skills and patient outcomes.

The prequel

The University of Sydney’s Health Sciences postgraduate program in Medical Imaging Sciences offers distance learning to diagnostic radiographers, nuclear-medicine-technology scientists and radiation therapists who want to acquire additional qualifications or professional accreditation. Such practitioners frequently need to expand their skill sets into the fields of computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), breast imaging, radiographic-image interpretation and hybrid imaging (molecular imaging plus CT or MRI).

“In 2014, we completely rethought the way we delivered the courses, and what sort of experience our students should have,” says Dr Peter Kench, senior lecturer in the discipline of Medical Radiation Sciences.

From heavy packages of readings and written assignments sent via post, the faculty’s distance-learning materials were redesigned into units of study that incorporated digitally presented information: the latest readings in online journals, webinars, online discussions, and good-quality videos which were then mainly “based around the academic talking to a PowerPoint presentation, with pop-up images or illustrations”, says Kench.

The uni also supplemented its own course material with video-based courses designed and produced by GE for its medical-imaging customers, to enhance their confidence and proficiency in using leading-edge scanning equipment.

University of Sydney lecturer Dr Karen Dobeli prepares a patient for scanning during the filming of Patient preparation for cardiac CT angiography, the first collaborative educational video production by UoS and GE Healthcare. Photo courtesy Ken Moffatt.

The producers

At GE Healthcare, the company’s TiP-Ed Online series of video education programs has for the past 25+ years been the value-added bonus to buying the company’s medical-imaging equipment and services. The programs were originally broadcast via satellite from a GE building in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“On the building where I work at the GE Global Healthcare Institute, there’s still a monstrous satellite dish,” says Aaron Hart, GE Healthcare’s global product manager for Digital Education. “If you’ve ever seen The Cable Guy, it’s like that. And each of the hospitals that were our customers in the 1990s and early 2000s had TVs dedicated to receiving our broadcasts.”

Almost 10 years ago, the company began delivering its highly regarded content online. Accredited by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, TiP-Ed Online courses are recognised by medical-imaging professional bodies worldwide, and viewed from Arnhem Land to Alaska. The content is equipment-manufacturer agnostic, and relevant to all imaging clinicians, so facilities which may be using a variety of non-GE equipment, such as the University of Sydney, access TiP-Ed courses via a licence agreement.

“GE Healthcare technology is amazing,” says Hart, “but it’s only as good as the people using it. The skilled professionals who work in the industry day-in, day-out are critical to driving the outcomes that patients and medical facilities are looking for.” GE Healthcare, he adds, is dedicated to supplying its audience with “GE’s own expertise in the field, and the best people we can partner with in the market, to deliver a premium training and education experience.”

The agent  

Donna Stibbard is the Education Leader for GE Healthcare in Australia & New Zealand. She’s passionate about supporting clinicians with ongoing training in formats and timeframes that suit their needs. Her successful pilot of Virtual Online Training using a robot to channel expert trainers all over the globe into Royal Hobart Hospital last year, has helped drive global success of the program, so far resulting in 50 robots being placed worldwide to deliver ongoing professional development to time-pressed hospital staff with only rare hours to spare.

The University of Sydney (UoS) was just one of many of her customers for education, when Stibbard and Kench recognised a synergistic opportunity.

“When Donna and I met,” says Kench, “we each had a need to fulfil. I knew that GE had a library of videos that would be relevant for our students. And at the university we had a need to develop quality learning materials that we believed would also be relevant to GE customers.”

As a result of a unique partnership between the two organisations, GE will produce an uncapped number of educational video programs in collaboration with the University of Sydney Health Sciences department. GE provides the director and videography; UoS provides the talent and content. And all students of UoS Health Sciences programs receive their own subscription to TiP-Ed Online.

The series

Dr Karen Dobeli, a lecturer at the University of Sydney, and Radiographer Consultant and Radiographer Team Leader (CT) at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital is the presenter of the first GE-UoS project, a three-part mini-series on Cardiac CT Angiography. Episode one—Patient preparation for cardiac CT angiography—is in the can.

Dobeli says she’s excited to be able to integrate graphics, moving and still images and patient-clinician scenarios into the videos, to aid in the explanation of concepts: “I think it makes the lecture more visually interesting, which hopefully makes for a more enjoyable learning experience.” And she adds, “I had a bit of fun pretending to be an actor in a soap opera while we were shooting the scenes in the hospital!”

The creative process saw director Ken Moffatt draft a script from a presentation by Dobeli on latest procedures and practices; the script was refined by both GE with its expertise in educational healthcare programs and the University with its own best practice in delivering learning and effective demonstrations of procedure. Locations were selected. Extras were nominated to play patients. Dobeli presented the concepts on video, with Kench standing by to verify that she had covered all points in a way students will engage with and understand.

Being able to outsource production of teaching materials in exchange for the time of its academic stars is a significant benefit to the University; and the arrangement, which Hart hopes to replicate with other universities, allows GE Healthcare to feed the voracious need for training of imaging professionals with cutting-edge educational content.

The medical Netflix

TiP-Ed Online already features around 300 accredited training videos, accessed by more than 4,000 hospitals and other facilities around the world. Every year the portfolio is reviewed, some programs are retired or refreshed, and 40 completely new programs are produced.

GE gets feedback from more than 1,500 users each day, which informs the pipeline for new programming. High on the must-watch list are new procedures being carried out on existing technology. “A great example is lung-cancer screening with CT; we create content to help our customers become familiar with these new procedures,” explains Hart.

Kench says an area in which the university is constantly conducting research and validating new procedures is in image optimisation. “It could be improving image quality to advance diagnostic accuracy, or it could be researching how to lower radiation dose while maintaining diagnostic accuracy.” Such from-the-source information and training is invaluable to medicos extending or refreshing their credentials via further study, as it is to GE medical-imaging customers.

“We have many people working in imaging in remote and rural areas,” says Stibbard of her broad-based Australian audience. “There’s no-one to back them, to take their place if they want to go to a course or a conference. For them to be able to receive training directly from people who are currently teaching or researching in one of the world’s premier universities—it’s really exciting.”

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