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OPENPediatrics: Digital Health Across the Globe

OPENPediatrics is used in locations across the globe.

OPENPediatrics brings information to pediatric medical professionals all over the world.

A child from the United States was vacationing with her family in Guatemala City when she fell critically ill, and Dr. Jeffrey Burns was asked to care for her from afar. As Chief of Critical Care Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Burns was familiar with the cutting edge tools being used to make a difference in medicine. However, he couldn’t help but notice that as he set up a video link with his colleagues in Guatemala, there were still significant technical challenges in sharing and exchanging knowledge.

At the time, he says, “I was also paying attention to what my son was doing with Xbox. He actually had a much better way to seamlessly communicate and collaborate with people in video games.” It was this realization that gave Dr. Burns the spark to create OPENPediatrics.

OPENPediatrics is a free digital health learning platform where physicians and other medical professionals can share knowledge about medical education. Sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital, OPENPediatrics has collaborated with organizations and companies like IBM, World Federation of Pediatric Intensive & Critical Care Societies, Lexicomp (from Wolters Kluwer Health), and Genuine Interactive – all in hopes of developing solutions for sharing medical knowledge without borders.

OPENPediatrics is more than just a piece of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Classes) movement, though. “Our goal was to create something called a community of practice where instead of being broad and thin like a MOOC, we would be narrow and much more deep, and the content would actually be peer reviewed by doctors and nurses who care for critically ill children, because those are essentially our primary users,” Burns says.

By working with a highly skilled team from MIT and Harvard Graduate School of Education, OPENPediatrics has expanded beyond the primitive forms of “flipped education”, focusing instead on a deeper integration within learning technologies. “We do a lot of work in post production to enhance that content and capture the adult learning cycle,” he explains, “seeing an expert explain, seeing an expert do, doing it yourself, and then discussing what you’ve learned afterwards.”

One of the most popular features on OPENPediatrics, for example, is a virtual mechanical ventilator or respirator. Burns explains the technology as “a sophisticated piece of equipment,” but explains that on OPENPediatrics, clinicians can practice using the technology before they start using it in a clinical setting.

In addition to the implementation of learning technologies, OPENPediatrics also uses an innovative blended learning model. Dr. Burns notes that because of duty hours, medical students, residents and fellows are limited by the number of hours they can be in the hospital. “Of course, this is a good thing, because no one would like an exhausted doctor taking care of a patient. But naturally, it carves the day into shifts, so the old conference-room-presentations learning model is disrupted in a good way.” Now, residents and medical students can go to the platform and learn the basics the night before they go into the hospital.

To illustrate the benefits of OPENPediatrics, Dr. Burns recalls the story of a colleague from Turkey. The Turkish hospital adopted protocols on catheter-associated bloodstream infections based on OPENPediatrics modules and infection rates immediately plummeted. This, he says, is one of the results he’d hoped for. OPENPediatrics is also used in Israel, Libya, Iran and other parts of the Middle East, places where, despite vast cultural disagreements, childhood health takes precedence. “The platform has really been able to break down barriers that we never even thought could be broken,” Burns says.

As OPENPediatrics continues to grow as a digital health platform, Dr. Burns is optimistic about it’s potential to address other medical bottlenecks. “When I started this platform, I thought it was only about clinical care and training,” he says. “It wasn’t until later that I realized that this platform can also be a research platform to provide the technological infrastructure someone needs to participate in clinical trials. If we’re trying to find answers for rare diseases or emerging threats, we can now more rapidly do that because we have this global digital platform in which information can be shared efficiently and effectively.”
To watch an overview presentation of OPENPediatrics, see below:

Jaskaran Singh Dhillon

Jaskaran Singh Dhillon

    Dhillon is MedTech Boston’s social media intern. He manages MTB’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, in addition to covering West Coast innovation events. Dhillon is also a student at University of California, Berkeley where he is majoring in molecular and cell biology. He is involved in dermatology, cardiology, and burn surgery research, and also serves on the Editorial Board for Stylus, the official medical humanities journal of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

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