Research Project Background Information

Project Description

This PhD research project aims to identify how medical education can provide the opportunity for future doctors to learn how to become effective in a digital health care environment. Specifically, how digital health capability might be integrated into the MB ChB degree programme at the University of Otago. In addition to addressing the ‘How,’ there is a need to address the ‘What,’ i.e., what aspects of digital health education should be included in the medical degree programme. Apart from the ever-increasing digital presence in health care globally, there are numerous reasons why this study endeavour is critical. Digital health may provide a multitude of advantages for health care ranging from quality improvements to efficiency and productivity increases. Digital health competence can also aid in diagnostic accuracy and patient accessibility which can lead to better health outcomes. Digital health competency has been deemed important by many health bodies and authorities both globally and locally and includes: 

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged member states to develop a digital strategy and ensure competencies on digital health are included in the education and training curricula of all health professionals.
  • The Ministry of Health (MoH) NZ has created a strategy for a digital ecosystem which includes the need for digital health literacy and capability within its health workforce.
  • The Australian Medical Council (AMC), the legislatively authorised body that accredits medical degree programmes in NZ have developed a roadmap that includes ensuring digital competency for future doctors.

Project Approach

The project methodology includes primary and secondary qualitative research to produce a programme theory to inform key educational interventions that facilitate medical students to acquire digital competence. This will be achieved by adopting a realist approach which is an iterative process of elicitation, testing and refinement. The primary research involves key stakeholder focus group interviews and may require individual interviews. The secondary research consists of a detailed formal Realist Review of the literature, which will inform further focus groups to confirm, falsify and refine an initial programme theory (IPT). This cycle of refinement through primary and secondary research continues until a satisfactory programme theory is created and agreed upon with the key stakeholders. The output of this work will inform subsequent phases of research.

Entrustable Professonal Activities

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) in collaboration with the Australian Digital Health Agency (the Agency) and broader stakeholders have developed a capability framework to guide how medical education providers can play a further role in the development of a digitally capable medical workforce in Australia and New Zealand.

The framework draws on the medical education innovation of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs). EPAs are a relatively new concept and becoming used more widely in medical education. They operate at different levels of learning: i.e. knowledge, routinised practice, problem-solving and leadership to allow for scaffolded learning for different levels of experience in digital health.