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The digitisation of doctors’ education – an insider’s view



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Isabell Faad, Co-founder of Winglet Community and Executive Global Masters in Management student at LSE Department of Management, explains how she plans to use an online learning platform to make education for doctors more accessible in developing countries 

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Six years of undergraduate study might be considered quite enough for most people. But for doctors, continued education past the point of qualification is considered mandatory. Understandably when your career involves taking people’s lives in your hands, being at the top of your game is crucial all the way through your working life. That immense responsibility weighs heavy on all those in the medical profession, but perhaps heaviest of all on surgeons.  

The problem is that ‘continuing medical education’ (CME) can’t be achieved by the same means as undergraduate learning; regular lectures and classroom teaching are not an option. As a consequence, senior doctors have to take time out of their working week to attend courses and travel to international conferences with other high-ranking medical professionals, in order to keep up with developments in the field and earn CME credits. I have a deep understanding of the medical conference industry from my role as head of business development at Intercongress, a leading organizer of medical and scientific congresses within Europe, but the reality is that conferences can be costly and time-consuming for the individual doctor. 

A like mind

It was through my role at Intercongress that I met my future co-founder, Professor Philipp Niemeyer, MD, a senior orthopaedic and trauma surgeon with a strong scientific track record and active involvement in different orthopaedic societies. Both recognising the flaws in the current system and the potential of digitisation, Philipp and I together thought up the concept for Winglet Community (Winglet), a means of training surgeons globally without the need for travel and expense. Up and running since 2016, Winglet is a fully CMEaccredited online platform offering independent educational video content for orthopaedic surgeons in cutting-edge formats. Our flagship format is our live TV event series, which we stream once a month from our dedicated production studio in Munich. These events are hosted by renowned orthopaedic and trauma surgeons who share their expertise with viewers; the broadcast also features examination and surgical videos, video statements from other experts, as well as an interactive poll, and a Q&A section so users can directly engage with the content. Through participating in one TV event, doctors can earn six CME credits, equal to the number of credits earned from attending a full day conference.  After the live show, the TV event is permanently available on our platform and community members can watch the live recordings whenever they feel like it. We like to think of Winglet as a kind of quality-assured Netflix for Doctors.   

Based in Germany, Winglet quickly developed a large following there. German-speaking surgeons proved eager to swap the hassle and cost of travelling to conferences for a small fee, granting access to the highest quality teaching from the comfort of their own homes. During the last three years, Winglet’s audience has grown to include other areas of Europe as ever greater numbers of medical professionals appreciate the somewhat overdue digitisation of their education.   

As the platform flourished in Europe, we began to question where else in the world our model could have the greatest impact. The longer we considered, the clearer the answer became; in terms of both profit and social good, Winglet needed to access emerging markets, starting with India. In Germany, there are roughly 380,000 doctors for a population size of 82 million. India is home to roughly a million doctors, for a colossal population size of 1.3 billion; that’s below the doctor-population ratio of 1:1000 prescribed by the WHO.While Winglet alone can’t solve the problem of low doctor density, we can do our part to help by providing access to independent high-quality medical education whilst also making the most of the rapid growth of the country’s digital economy. 

We are keen to avoid any notion of the Western saviour complex. India may face challenges with universal access to education for its colossal population size, but it’s also home to exceptional local expertise in medicine. The country’s strained medical services benefit from brilliant doctors and nurses working hard to meet the overwhelming demand for their time. At Winglet, we want to design a strategy which utilises the capability of Indian surgeons and enables them to work together with the Western medical experts who already contribute regularly to Winglet’s content. 

A new education 

With a concrete goal in mind, we needed a concrete business strategy. In order to develop the necessary knowledge of global expansion and the emerging markets, I took the decision to pursue executive education. After extensive research, I found myself drawn to the Executive Global MSc in Management (EGMiM) programme run by the London School of Economics’ Department of Management. The programme takes an evidence-based approach to global management and crucially, includes overseas modules to Bangalore and Beijing, the most significant emerging economies.  

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I’m now halfway through the course, and I’ve already gained a much deeper understanding of our global business challenges and the economic, political, social, and psychological contexts in which organisations operate worldwide. After so many years engaged with the practical side of business, it’s proved enlightening to step back, invest in my intellectual development and embrace abstract thinking. Throughout the programme, I’ve never lost sight of our expansion goals for Winglet. The Bangalore module is an experience I highly anticipate as it will give me first-hand insight into how India’s economy works and also offer valuable networking opportunities. The trip will include meetings with various local and multinational organisations in diverse sections of the economy, during which I intend to share Winglet’s success story so far and build relationships with interested parties in India. From there, I intend to foster those relationships to build Winglet’s presence in India as we have done in Germany and wider Europe.  

During one of our networking events in London, I had the chance to meet the corporate relations manager at LSE responsible for connecting companies with LSE programmes. This contact resulted in a joint research project between Winglet and a group of enthusiastic and capable young MSc in Marketing students who also study with LSE Department of Management. The project aims to create a market entry strategy as well as digital/direct to consumer distribution strategies for the Indian market, targeting four key groups; clinics and hospitals who could use Winglet as a continuing education platform for their employees; medical associations, societies and networks who can spread the word among their members and offer their own education contents on the Winglet platform; private practices and individual physicians performing orthopaedic treatments who might use the Winglet offering for their on continued education, and companies from the medical technology field interested in supporting or investing in Winglet.  

Isabell Faad

The beauty of a digital platform is that barriers to global expansion are minimised. Winglet Education has prioritised India as a target market because of the country’s pressing need for greater access to medical education. But our long-term goal is global. It’s past time the continued education of doctors was digitised on a mass scale, and we at Winglet hope to play a significant role in achieving this.  

 

About the author

With well over 100 years experience between us, we've been around the editorial and medical blocks a few times. But we're still as keen as any young pup to root out what's new and inspiring.

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