The future of virtual medical education in South Africa





 10 March 2016
Time: 20:30 – 21:30 (SAST / GMT +02 / 13:30 E.S.T)
Moderator: Vanessa Carter
Hashtag: #hcsmSA

Please visit how to participate in a TweetChat if you are new to Twitter.


In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the author makes reference to the future of virtual reality and its place in medical education. Last year, I had the privilege of spending the day with one of the academic surgical societies for hcsmSA at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, to witness a live surgery so that I could do research for medical education using social media. I had initially planned to share the surgery on Flickr, giving attention to patient privacy issues. We were going to photograph the procedure without exposing the patient’s identity, after seeing hospitals abroad using this method.                                      
On the day that I entered theater however, and saw a five year old patient laying on the table, I realised the implications of sharing surgical procedures on public platforms. So I decided to hold back on the Flickr idea until I had done more research.


There are community websites which provide platforms where members can connect and see research as well as share cases for medical education purposes. These are closed to the general public. Their digital tools allow information to be available to a global community which could benefit continents like Africa. Imagine medical education could be available in 360 degrees on a virtual device to someone in Africa narrated in their own language, especially in areas that have limited medical help available. Read the article about Touchsurgery and the possibilities in African medical education by

Medical education is a broad topic, and there are many emerging technologies that can be used to improve it. From the use of social media, hcsm, to the more sophisticated gaming and simulation technology. Innovative thinking is necessary to explore the tools already available or design new ones.


An article in PubMed describes the potential of virtual medical education below:

An international virtual medical school (IVIMEDS): the future for medical education?

“The introduction of new learning technologies, the exponential growth of Internet usage and the advent of the World Wide Web have the potential of changing the face of higher education. There are also demands in medical education for greater globalization, for the development of a common core curriculum, for improving access to training, for more flexible and student-centred training programmes including programmes with multi-professional elements and for maintaining quality while increasing student numbers and working within financial constraints. An international virtual medical school (IVIMEDS) with a high-quality education programme embodying a hybrid model of a blended curriculum of innovative e-learning approaches and the best of traditional face-to-face teaching is one response to these challenges. Fifty leading international medical schools and institutions are participating in a feasibility study. This is exploring: innovative thinking and approaches to the new learning technologies including e-learning and virtual reality; new approaches to curriculum planning and mapping and advanced instructional design based on the use of ‘reusable learning objects’; an international perspective on medical education which takes into account the trend to globalization; a flexible curriculum which meets the needs of different students and has the potential of increasing access to medicine.”


One of the biggest issues we face in South Africa is a shortage of health workers. It got me wondering how e-Learning and virtual tools could be used to help improve CME for health workers. Could it be used in the public facilities to implement cost-effective education about a topic like disease control to strengthen our system against outbreaks like Ebola, ZIKA and MRSA? Could these technologies be used to educate health workers about eHealth and precision medicine as opposed to printed media? Furthermore, how can our universities benefit from access to global medical education using these technologies?


In this chat, we share ideas about how virtual technologies and eHealth can improve medical education in South Africa. In future chats, we will focus on specific technologies in this area of health.


Some examples of technology include:

Mobile applications
Online Web Portals
Social Media
Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality
Gaming in Health  
e-Learning and MOOCs
Googleglass and other wearables
Digital Platforms
Online Communities


What ideas do you have?



T1: What technology is making an impact in medical education internationally?

T2: What technologies could be implemented into South Africa and how could we benefit?

T3: How can we improve technology integration and innovation in the medical education sector?
(In South Africa, but also how is it being addressed globally?)

CT (Closing Thoughts): Is there anything you would like to add to this discussion?


OUR Special Guests:



Ulrico Grech-Cumbo – DEEPVR (Johannesburg)  
Virtual reality and gaming experts





Lawrence Sherman, FACEHP, CHCP
Global Medical Education Futurist and the funniest guy in Medical Education





Follow @hcsmSA on Twitter to keep up to date on local conversations. Tweet local news with the #hcsmSA hashtag included to curate conversations and grow the network. To submit a topic for discussion click here.

With special thanks to and Symplur analytics.