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10 things to watch in online medical education post pandemic

New technologies and educational approaches can support busy clinicians to enhance knowledge and skills to deliver better care to their patients, to enhance their careers and in a way that suits their busy lives and at a cost that is affordable.

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"Generation Z students are socially motivated and believe in caring for their fellow global citizens"

And online medical education is set to evolve in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are 10 things to look out for:

1 The medical education gap is critical

There is a widening gap between the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers being educated and the growing global population demand. This is accentuated by many leaving the profession early as a result of the pandemic.

By 2030 this gap will be 18 million and does not take into account those practicing requiring further specialist postgraduate training.

Governments have realised how critical healthcare is to protecting the economy and maintaining a safe and healthy population. They have seen just how challenging and expensive it is to fix healthcare in a crisis.

There has never been a stronger imperative to provide innovative solutions to scale medical, nursing and healthcare professional higher education.

2 Staff retention, motivation and career progression

Many doctors and nurses are experiencing physical and emotional burnout. They felt under-protected and undervalued during the pandemic and are now voting with their feet. Either leaving the profession early, moving to a new employer or looking at career change.

Healthcare employers need to provide structured career support to retain and motivate their staff particularly those who stepped up and shown true leadership during the pandemic. Providing postgraduate education to help redeploy staff within the organisation into research, education, leadership, or new clinical tracks will build real staff loyalty and drive innovation.

3 A new generation of students

Interest in entering medical and healthcare undergraduate programs has accelerated across the globe. Generation Z students have grown up online are socially motivated and believe in caring for their fellow global citizens.

They demand more and will bring new energy and perspectives to community-based care and population health. It is critical sufficient enrolment opportunities can be created for them through new targeted online university programs in key global regions where they live.

4 Learner expectation

The Disney and Netflix user and content experience has become the expected norm but is expensive to build and maintain in education. However, when coupled with world class medical faculty to teach online classes, the investment delivers both the highest industry student engagement and educational outcomes. Use of adaptive and personalised learning approaches including simulations, games, VR will continue growing exponentially.

5 Community-based care and public health focus

For many doctors, medical school debt and salary disparity drove them to pursue lucrative hospital-based specialisation. Now working and living within the community has become a real option for a whole new generation of family medicine, community and public health experts using telemedicine tools and online educational approaches to augment earnings.

6 The traditional academic calendar is no longer

The flexibility of online medical education allows for rolling monthly or quarterly student intakes – and it has superseded the traditional academic calendar during Covid and this will continue. It provides immediacy to students making enrolment decisions and opportunities of accelerating their career.

“Keeping costs low and being true to a social mission to support the student will build university brand loyalty”

7 Postgraduate qualifications at a price that suits

Students are both very cost orientated and busy with work and home. Universities that offer flexible online programs at an affordable price will win out over traditional elite and expensive institutional brands. Keeping costs low and being true to a social mission to support the student will build university brand loyalty.

8 Micro-credentials

While it does make sense to have affordable stackable blocks of education that you can pay for and consume as you go and that will all eventually add up to a formal qualification, these are being accepted much more slowly in a highly regulated industry like healthcare. These flexible modular stackable approaches are already developing from within the sector with both university providers and OPM partners working directly with regulators and employers and expect this to grow.

9 Government partnerships to support local capacity

While emerging economy governments in the Middle East, Asia and Africa plan to build their own national university sector capacity to be self-sufficient, the challenge is often both lack of investment and institutional experience and expertise to build and scale faculty in the specialist healthcare area.

Specialist OPM and university partners with global faculty can quickly provide solutions to solve complex and urgent national healthcare challenges .

10 Nursing takes centre stage

Nursing has finally been recognised as the most critical profession. Intensive care, emergency care, hospital and community nurses are the real heroes of the pandemic. Growing and supporting their numbers with online professional education is the most critical challenge of next decade and one we are delighted to support.

To partner with us or joining our growing global faculty please contact me at

About the author:

This is a sponsored post from family doctor and passionate medical education entrepreneur Tom O’Callaghan. As CEO and Founder of iheed, the leading specialist medical online program management company in Europe Middle East and Asia he has led the creation of a suite of postgraduate University accredited programs for doctors, nurses and ancillary healthcare workers in over 60 countries, in partnership with leading UK and Irish medical universities.


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