April 20, 2018

Technological innovation helps redefine Medical School curriculum

Learning Outcomes tool provides faculty and students with a single mechanism for tracking student progress, providing important data to inform goal development and learning plans

Learning Outcomes dashboard

The University of Michigan Medical School is undergoing a transformation of its medical student curriculum, with the goal to develop future physician leaders in health care.

In the previous model, students spent the first two years of their education focusing on science and the following two years in the clinical setting with patients. In the revised curriculum, students are exposed to the clinical aspects of medicine during their first year, allowing them to learn about patient care and how it connects with science of medicine.

As these changes have unfolded, Medical School officials began searching for a better way to track student progress as they navigate the new curricular environment.

Health Information Technology & Services (HITS) has partnered with the Office of Medical Student Education (OMSE) to drive technological innovations in medical education. A recent outcome of this collaboration is the Learning Outcomes tool, which aggregates individual student assessment outcomes in one location. Learning Outcomes provides faculty and students with a single mechanism for tracking student progress, providing important data to inform goal development and learning plans. It also offers the opportunity to focus on student strengths, and the dexterity to address gaps in learning sooner rather than later.

“The ability to review medical student progress in this holistic fashion strengthens the overall medical student experience,” said Johmarx Patton, M.D., MHI, director of the HITS education informatics and technology team. “Medical students are benefiting from coaching and other aspects of this current curriculum that were not as easily accomplished when I was a student.”

The efficiency of the system goes beyond dashboards. HITS developers and OMSE staff used to spend many hours manually compiling data for use in dean’s letters (medical student performance evaluations to accompany their residency applications), Academic Review Board reporting and hearings, and general tracking routinely done by counselors. Tools like Learning Outcomes help streamline these labor-intensive processes.

Medical School Assistant Dean for Curriculum Michelle M. Daniel, M.D., said the dashboard is very valuable to the UMMS educational community.

“As we move towards full actualization of competency based education, our ability to measure achievement in core competencies beyond medical knowledge is critical,” said Daniel, who is also an assistant professor of emergency medicine and learning health sciences. “A major barrier in this process historically has been data management.

“Learning Outcomes allows us to assimilate hundreds of inputs from diverse sources to make decisions about learners’ progression in communication, patient care, professionalism, and other competencies. The system facilitates holistic review by our competency committees, improves the ability of our faculty coaches to provide meaningful feedback, and helps learners look at their own data for themes with an aim of self-improvement.” 

Developers Mark Schneyer and Leif Myklebust worked closely with several different groups both internal and external to HITS, and carefully crafted a tool that helps the organization’s customers.

“This system is a success — it’s better for business in so many ways,” said Paul Morrison, assistant director of HITS software delivery. “Additionally, it was difficult and expensive for HITS to support three, labor-intensive legacy applications; now it’s not. It’s a win for everyone, and that’s why it’s exciting.”