The degree to which digital services and technologies can successfully make their way into the realm of healthcare depends not least on the digital proficiency of users themselves. This is yet another issue “The Digital Patient” project has chosen to explore. For example, after examining the results of our study on video consultations, we concluded that new communication techniques should be integrated into the medical training and continuing education of physicians. Starting next week, the University Medical Center Mainz will be the first faculty in Germany to introduce a special curriculum for medical students. We asked the head of the project, PD Dr. Sebastian Kuhn, to describe the scope and goals of this special curriculum.

The increasing digitization of the healthcare system is changing the profession of medical doctors. Indeed, modern forms of communication and cooperation in everyday medical practice require new skills and qualifications. In order for future physicians to be able to comply with this profile of digital expertise, I headed up a working group tasked with the development of an innovative blended learning curriculum called “Medicine in the Digital Age”, which will launch on 29 May 2017 at the University Medical Center Mainz.

It is safe to assume that today’s medical students – as the first generation of “digital natives” – already live in symbiosis with technical innovations and digital applications. However, the experience of growing up immersed in digital media on the “consumer level” alone is insufficient to give students the key digital skills and expertise they need to pursue their chosen medical profession.

Interweaving one’s knowledge with his or her personal perspective and individual set of skills is the only way to achieve expertise in the field of medicine. And we have only just begun to develop meaningful concepts to help us achieve this goal. The introduction of the Medicine in the Digital Age curriculum marks the first time digital medicine will be implemented in the context of medical studies in Germany.

If our goal is to create something new, we are going to have to involve all the key groups and encourage them to exchange and compare different experiences and approaches. Patients, students and physicians are important partners in this process. If they work together, it can lead to a common understanding – a shared mental model. The Medicine in the Digital Age concept systematically follows this approach.

  • Social media
  • Digital physician-patient communication
  • Smart devices
  • Apps
  • Telemedicine
  • Virtual reality
  • Big data

All of the above are modules in our curriculum; so-called “frontal education” and a mere passing-on of facts are not. An innovative learning concept shifts the imparting of knowledge to the realm of eLearning prior to the actual lessons; this enables instructors to create space for practical work and discussion during actual classroom time. Ideas, opinions and visions are conveyed in texts, images and videos and added to the teaching materials; the result is the creation of a “2.0 version” of eLearning. This approach makes it possible to document learning outcomes while accurately reflecting the perspectives of the aspiring young doctors.

Ideally, after completing the curriculum, students should be able to effectively apply their knowledge, skills and perspective in reference to digital medicine. This includes being able to identify the opportunities and possibilities associated with technological innovation, but also being able to assess the risks and limitations of digitization in healthcare.

The Medicine in the Digital Age project is supported by the Curriculum 4.0 funding program organized by the Stifterverband (a donors’ association for the promotion of humanities and sciences in Germany) and the Carl Zeiss Foundation. You are invited to follow the development of the project at, on Twitter and on Facebook. Also feel free to use traditional communication methods and write me an email. I look forward to hearing from you!

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