UK hospital conducts first virtual ward rounds for students

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Imperial College London has conducted what it said is the world’s first virtual ward round for medical students, which means an entire class of 350 students can watch a consultant examining patients rather than the three or four who previously would have have been able to accompany them in person.

The Guardian reports that the virtual ward round involves the physician wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens glasses, which stream video to the students’ computers. While the doctor talks to the patient, students can hear both of them through the use of two microphones.

The first virtual teaching round was delivered at St Marys Hospital London last week with just under a dozen students. Dr Amir Sam, head of the school of medicine at Imperial, said the innovation was sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals have tried to minimise the risk of infection by preventing anyone from entering who does not need to be there, including students.

Teachers are able to pin virtual pictures to the display, such as X-rays, drug charts or radiographs, or draw lines to highlight something they want to emphasise.

The virtual ward rounds can be recorded, allowing universities to create a library of cases. That means more students will get to see patients with rare conditions and have a better understanding of the symptoms and how the patient acts.

Oliver Salazar, a fifth-year medical student who was on the inaugural round, said it was “an invaluable clinical experience”. “Despite the ward round being virtual, it felt far from it – we were expected to ask questions and think about clinical problems in real time,” he said. “It was really helpful to be able to access investigations like X-rays and blood tests in an instant, and the way the information was projected felt natural.”

Imperial first started using the technology, which was introduced by Dr James Kinross, a consultant surgeon, in May to allow clinical staff to conduct ward rounds more safely during the pandemic.

Sam said he hoped that the virtual ward rounds will allow students to take part, even if they are studying at other universities around the world.


Full report in The Guardian

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