Many developing countries lack qualified health practitioners. One of the barriers is a lack of affordable, quality medical education. While there are thousands of useful, freely-accessible e-learning objects in health sciences, no one else has collected and transformed these resources into a university – a cohort of courses that would-be health sciences students and practitioners can take, for credit and for free. While some others offer accredited distance training for a fee, or distance training without credit for free, no one else copiously offers both free and for-credit materials from respected partners.
Seed funding provided by Grand Challenges Canada enabled NextGenU (collaborating with the Africa Mental Health Foundation)
to work closely with developing country implementation partners to develop, test and refine an innovative online education model for medical residents. More specifically, this model aims to quickly and efficiently multiply the number of health providers in developing countries.
NextGenU created the world’s first portal to free, accredited higher education. In the seed phase, they tested the model in four different pilot sites. Findings revealed that NextGenUsers achieved equal or better learning outcomes (when compared with controls in traditional settings), reported higher satisfaction with the trainings, both in clinical (Emergency Medicine for medical students and residents) and public health (Environmental Health for public health students) courses.
The trainings are underway in 129 countries, with more than 3,200 registrants. The bridge funding was directed towards implementing vertical scale-up of a two-year Family Medicine Residency (FMR) training in Sudan. In partnership with NextGenU, the Gezira Family Medicine Program (GFMP) is now prepared to enroll residents on a rolling basis to meet the target of 10,000 family doctors in five years.
Results showed feasibility and acceptability of this online training to enhance the skills of medical residents in developing countries. NextGenU planned to enroll up to 120 residents in this program; However the Sudanese Government and our academic partners continued showing extraordinary enthusiasm and commitment and, as a result, have recruited 138 residents. All 138 Sudanese students registered with NextGenU received intensive computer and software training during the summer months in 2014; students had varying levels of computer proficiency, and the training was necessary to ensure their ability to use the online platform.
GFMP operates an advanced electronic medical record system (EMR). This is an extremely important data source for evaluating the impact of the project. As part of their in-service training, medical residents (who are based in clinics) see patients, create patient logs and set up follow-up visits through the EMR system. This setup and database will allow our teams to assess the impact of our program on short- and long-term patient outcomes.
GFMP has also successfully employed tele-medicine and tele-mentoring to deliver health services and train physicians remotely; these will be continued and further developed in the context of trainings offered with NextGenU.
GFMP has been nominated and is being considered for awards for their successful use of the EMR and tele-medicine systems. Knowledge was disseminated through publications.
NextGenU initiated a new partnership with a tech company called ReelDx whose vision is to provide a secure and easy-to-use platform for creating, storing and sharing medical videos. Through this unique partnership, family medicine residents in Sudan can create clinical case videos, as well as store and securely share these cases with their global peers – a powerful educational tool. The Government of Sudan allocated funding to pay the residents enrolled in the family medicine program and distributed computers to all trainees, in order to better utilize these educational tools.