In the latest step toward the globalization of healthcare, IBM and Boston Children's Hospital have partnered to create a cloud-based social learning network that aims to connect physicians and nurses from anywhere in the world to share the best practices in pediatric medical care.
Currently in its pilot phase, OPENPediatrics is a learning tool that gives clinicians in any location access to advanced medical curricula, training videos and simulative medical scenarios, as well as a social network comprised of pediatric experts from around the globe. The system is currently available to more than 1,000 doctors and nurses in 74 countries on six continents.
BCH supplied the medical content for the software's education component and IBM created the technological infrastructure. OPENPediatrics provides real-time education for doctors treating critically ill children in high-stress situations. For example, doctors treating a pediatric patient who needs a ventilator in a remote part of Africa can read and watch a video about the procedure, simulate the procedure, then put their knowledge into practice.
The social network component allows doctors and nurses to ask questions of pediatric experts in the field.
"This is a less democratic network with vetted expert content," said Kevin Cavanaugh, VP of social business at IBM.
The social content is allowed into the network through a peer review process similar to the process a medical journal undergoes, ensuring quality of material. There are two types of comments: those logged by clearly identified experts in that medical area and those logged by non-experts in that area.
"This type of hierarchy doesn't exist in your personal Facebook account," Cavanaugh said. "This is a global view of that same rounds process that's been critical in medicine for years."
The system was designed with access as its top priority. It's available offline, enabling access to emerging markets and resource-challenged environments. It works in a browser, so major computer infrastructure isn't necessary. Most of its functions can be taken offline, including commenting. Comments can be made offline and are shared when the system establishes an Internet connection.
A key challenge in creating OPENPediatrics was the user interface design, Cavanaugh said.
"Designers refer to the user interface model as the Fisher-Price user interface," he said. "It needs to be something that doctors can use in a potentially stressful situation so they can find what they need to find without a lot of training on the application."
A network of pediatric physicians is currently sponsoring the program. Cavanaugh said IBM hopes to take the OPENPediatrics model to other major industries, like the oil or aviation industry.
"There are lots of opportunities that we see to grow this new style of learning," he said. "It's a question of creating engagement and enablement for people and not relying on old versions of classroom learning where knowledge deteriorates quickly. Being able to find the answer under stress is something that's particularly special."